Coun­cil­lors flee, fear­ing lives

16 say they are on Ray­mond Mh­laba hit list

Daily Dispatch - - News - By BONGANI FUZILE

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@

Pic­ture: SI­BONGILE NGALWA

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

Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

REIGN OF TER­ROR: Mur­dered coun­cil­lor Thozama Njobe from the Ray­mond Mh­laba Mu­nic­i­pal­ity

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