Life in the shadow of death

Mail & Guardian - - News - Paddy Harper

At 9.30pm on Sun­day the Khathi fam­ily were bed­ding down for the night. Their helper, Mabongi Msani, was tak­ing down the wash­ing out­side. A scream. As the fam­ily came run­ning, a man in shorts and a blue zip-up track top jumped over the bound­ary wall. Bang! Bang!

Since the be­gin­ning of the year KwaZu­luNatal Lower South Coast deputy mayor Si­bongile Khathi (33) has been re­ceiv­ing death threats. The at­tempt on her life at her home in Umz­into this week brought the ve­rac­ity of the threats home.

This at­tack on the ANC pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion coun­cil­lor and deputy mayor of the Um­doni mu­nic­i­pal­ity is be­lieved to be linked to the po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in the area. The Lower South Coast ANC re­gional lead­er­ship was sus­pended ear­lier this year, and the po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing in the re­gion has had a heavy im­pact on t he lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the South Coast, which are gov­erned by the ANC.

Ac­cord­ing to fam­ily and friends of Khathi, the for­mer deputy sec­re­tary of the ANC Youth League in the prov­ince, and a one-time ally of cur­rent pro­vin­cial chair­per­son Sihle Zikalala, has been un­der threat since Jan­uary, when the ten­sions be­gan to come to a head.

Nev­er­the­less, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­fused to pro­vide her with body­guards, in­sist­ing that she only qual­i­fied for a driver.

Her hus­band, Man­dlenkosi Dlamini, spoke to the Mail & Guardian about the at­tack on Wed­nes­day. Khathi was un­der doc­tor’s or­ders and too dis­traught to speak to the me­dia.

Dlamini said that, al­though there were ten­sions at the coun­cil, the at­tack had come “out of nowhere”.

“We re­ported this at Um­doni. There is no­body there who is tak­ing care of this. We first asked for body­guards in Jan­uary.

“The coun­cil told us she only qual­i­fies for a driver. What good is that?”

Dlamini said the fam­ily had been saved be­cause of the se­cu­rity guards he em­ployed to pro­tect the fam­ily home after the threats to his wife.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the year I have made a means to pay se­cu­rity from my own pocket. This is what saved us as they came run­ning from their rooms at the back of the prop­erty,” he said.

Dlamini said he was con­cerned that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was fail­ing to pro­tect its of­fi­cials.

“This is hec­tic. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity is not tak­ing care of this. They are not en­sur­ing the se­cu­rity of peo­ple who are ex­posed to dan­ger by do­ing their jobs. This is wrong,” he said.

“I don’t know how this is go­ing to end. I’m very wor­ried about our son. He is 15 years old. He saw the at­tacker. He is writ­ing ex­ams now and this is a very big strain on him,” Dlamini added.

He was not sure what the mo­tive for the at­tack could be be­cause his wife had been de­ployed to the Harry Gwala re­gion as part of a re­gional task team.

“No­body is tak­ing this se­ri­ously. No­body has come to see how she is, to check on us. No­body. No­body is tak­ing a de­ci­sion to pro­vide as­sis­tance.

“That’s why I ended up say­ing, if I want to see this woman dead, let me stand by and wait for the coun­cil. That’s why we ended up pay­ing for se­cu­rity for her out of my own pocket,” Dlamini said.

ANC sources in the area said that the sus­pended re­gional chair­per­son, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, had re­ceived fresh death threats last week and had in­creased the size of his se­cu­rity team.

Nei­ther the Um­doni mu­nic­i­pal­ity nor the po­lice re­sponded to emailed re­quests for com­ment this week.

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