No end to political murders in KZN
As KwaZulu-Natal’s commission of inquiry into political killings prepares to go about its work in earnest, the chair of the investigative structure expressed concerns over the seemingly unending cycle of violence.
As bodies continue to pile up, Advocate Marumo Moerane SC, chair of the probe appointed last October by Premier Willies Mchunu, expressed shock at a wave of political killings that are continuing long after the local government elections took place in August last year.
“We will be looking into the underlying causes of the killing of politicians. It is certainly of concern to me to see that the killings are continuing,” he said.
According to statistics presented by veteran violence monitor Mary de Haas, at least 12 political killings have taken place since the commission was proclaimed, among them councillors, municipal officials and civic activists.
The bulk of the killings have taken place at Glebelands and KwaMashu hostels in Durban, Estcourt in the Midlands and iNtshanga, western Durban, while a spate of pre-election murders hit Newcastle, Ladysmith and the Zululand towns of Nongoma, Pongola and eDumbe.
Moerane is also worried that the commission has already served half of its term, which ends in October, while its investigations and the hearings have barely scratched the surface.
“There have been some delays and we have lost a bit of time. We are already halfway into our term and we will have to see how we progress to September. Hopefully, we won’t have to ask for an extension,”
Political murders in KwaZulu-Natal
Mchunu established the commission to also look at where state resources could be deployed to prevent conflicts and contain them.
The commission sat last week to hear “scene-setting” evidence from academics, including De Haas.
Delays were also caused by the appointment process for the head of a nine-member investigations team. Former KwaZulu-Natal head of detectives and Scorpions investigator, Brigadier Clifford Marion, was appointed to run the investigations team. It is expected to assess closed, unresolved and unsolved political murders since 2011.
Marion was part of the investigative task unit that probed political killings for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has also dealt with many high-profile political cases in the province, including the assassination of United Democratic Movement leader in Richmond, Sifiso Nkabinde.
The commission, which sits again from May 9 to May 12 and May 23 to May 26, will provide recommendations to the premier on possible steps to prevent further killings and would pass on new evidence around killings to the police for investigation and prosecution.
Commission secretary Solo Mdledle said the commission will hear evidence on some of the conflicts that had dogged the province for years, among them the deadly block war at Umlazi’s Glebelands hostel that claimed more than 70 lives. It will also hear witness testimony about the ongoing war between the ANC and SA Communist Party at iNtshanga and the retaliatory assassinations at Estcourt.
Mdledle said part of the task was to separate political murders from criminal ones.
“We will work in parallel with police investigations as the premier wants us to investigate the underlying causes. He is interested in understanding why politicians are being murdered,” he said.
Mdledle said members of the public who had evidence should come forward and promised those who had sensitive information that there would be means to ensure that they provided it confidentially.
“There is a hope that we are going to come up with some kind of solution for the murders. We are under pressure because of [recent murders] in iNtshanga and Richmond. We are trying to catch up with the numbers, but the numbers keep increasing,” Moerane said.