Councillors flee, fearing lives
16 say they are on Raymond Mhlaba hit list
SIXTEEN ANC councillors have fled their homes for fear of being murdered by hitmen in Raymond Mhlaba Municipality.
The councillors said they believed crooked tenders and “gangsters” were behind the reign of terror.
By day the 16 serve as public figures, but by night they slip into hiding, taking their loved ones with them.
All 16 were friends of assassinated council speaker Thozama Njobe, who was killed in July. The councillors say they have been told they are next on the killers’ hit list.
Last Friday morning at about 3am, attackers came for councillor Nobuhle Sango.
Showing deadly intent, they emptied four litres of petrol around her home, making sure to splash the fuel over her bakkie and small car.
They lit the fuel but a vigilant family member ran out and put sand in the fuel’s path, preventing the blaze from spreading and doing damage.
Saturday Dispatch can exclusively reveal that the councillors are being advised by their comrades to resign to save their lives and those of their families.
Sango has fled the province after she noticed strange vehicles following her. Sango also received tip-offs from her community that a man had been hired to kill her.
A second councillor, who asked not to be named, spoke of being threatened by “gangsters”.
“We need the world to know about this before one of us is killed. Our only sin is to tell the truth and stand up against corruption.
“Currently there are tenders in this municipality that were given to people without any advertisement. Do we keep mum? Never. It’s our job as council to make sure there’s service delivery without fraudulent tenders.
“We can’t be ruled by gangsters. What is happening with the ANC? Why are we killing each other? This is not what Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela dreamt of.”
Provincial police confirmed they were aware of threats against the councillors.
Provincial police spokesman Captain Kaya Tonjeni said: “We can confirm that Chungwa police have opened an inquiry into the matter.”
Saturday Dispatch met with four of the 16 councillors and called eight others on their cellphones, and they confirmed the death threats.
The remaining four could not be reached for comment.
Saturday Dispatch spoke to a visibly shaken Sango at her home earlier this week.
“My children are traumatised, I am not sleeping at home, we are scared,” she said. A day later she left the province, according to other councillors.
Three other councillors met with the Dispatch out of the public eye in Fort Beaufort.
They said they were protecting themselves from “spies, who are watching our every move”, said one.
The councillors said they had been receiving anonymous calls and “intelligence information” about the threats on their lives since early last month.
Five councillors told Dispatch they would go home after work, but made sure they had cleared out before sunset.
“We have to be safe because we are being followed. Fort Beaufort is such a small town and you know almost every motorist around and when you see a vehicle around for days and at times next to your house, you have every reason to be scared.
“What happened to Njobe and what was attempted against Sango proves that we are at risk working here.
“Some people suggest we pack and leave this municipality but that is an ANC decision, not ours. We are here to serve our community, not individual interests,” said the councillor.
Another councillor from the area had to flee his home after a vehicle with three occupants was parked nearby for more than 18 hours earlier this week.
On Thursday night another vehicle, again with three occupants, was also parked near his house and it only left in the early hours of yesterday. He is no longer sleeping at his house.
Raymond Mhlaba mayor Bandile Ketelo said the municipality was not aware of any danger to their councillors.
He said any councillor whose life was in danger, must report that directly to the police.
“I’ve followed up your inquiry with calls to the councillors on your list and I can confirm that I personally spoke to at least five of them and they have no knowledge of any threat to their lives.
“Someone is spreading lies to feed his or her factional political ego. In the process, the name of this council is being tarnished,” said Ketelo.
Ketelo confirmed that Sango had reported the arson attack on Friday.
“I referred the matter to the municipality’s chief of security and I know that he had been in touch with councillor Sango and has provided her with the procedure that she has to follow to obtain security,” he said.
ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said the councillors had reported the matter to the ANC, which was deeply concerned.
“We strongly condemn this. A councillor’s house was petrolbombed, and we don’t hear much about what the municipality is doing to protect these councillors.
“There are extreme tendencies of factionalism and the councillors suspect each other and they end up not reporting things. We call for police to investigate this and we also call for unity in this municipality. We will follow up on this,” vowed Mabuyane. — bonganif@
FIERY ESCAPE: One of the vehicles belonging to councillor Nomhle Sango, inset, on which petrol was poured last week. Sango’s family managed to douse the fire
REIGN OF TERROR: Murdered councillor Thozama Njobe from the Raymond Mhlaba Municipality