Political killings are a threat to our democracy, warns Parks Tau
Salga’s president calls on Cabinet to look into assassinations, warning of mass resignations as fear engulfs councillors and municipal managers
Cabinet ministers in the security cluster should take political killings, especially those of councillors, more seriously, says South African Local Government Association (Salga) president Parks Tau.
The situation is so dire that councillors and municipal managers are resigning in droves, fearing for their lives. This poses a huge problem for municipalities wanting to retain their institutional memory and to attract competent administrators.
Salga released its report on political killings on Thursday in Johannesburg, detailing the intimidation of councillors and administrators. The report had earlier been presented to the Moerane Commission looking into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
Tau said cabinet ministers in the security cluster had been invited to participate in Salga events but did not do so, meaning political killings for them were "not an important issue".
Tau said he had to raise the issue so that the ministers in question were not surprised if Salga were to vent its frustrations to the Cabinet.
"We think it is unfortunate that the ministers did not participate in the discussion.
"We have certainly been struggling to meet with the security cluster to raise the issue. But we will not tire. We will continue to write to the ministers, so that we can officially present the outcomes of this research to the security cluster, so that we can have a conversation about what the solutions are," said Tau.
The security cluster encompasses the ministries of justice and correctional services, defence, home affairs, police and state security.
Salga estimates that there were at least 600 politically motivated killings in the country from 1996 to 2016.
Since 2011, at least 43 councillors have been killed, 24 injured and 28 properties destroyed. There are more than 9,000 councillor positions in the country.
An emerging trend highlighted in the Salga report was the high incidence of resignations among councillors and municipal managers in local councils.
Only 30% of all councillors returned to office for further terms, while the average municipal manager served only about 3.3 years of a five-year contract.
The other trend noted in the Salga report was that killings and the violence were meted out to achieve private ends.
Tau said the issue should concern society at large and not be confined to Salga.
Political killings threatened the inner workings of local government as they would deter prospective councillor candidates from participating for fear of being killed. This posed a threat to democracy.
"We think it [political killings] also creates potential for those who want instability ..."
The continued intimidation and killings of councillors created an environment for agents provocateurs that could eventually lead to the destabilisation of the country if the killings were not stopped, warned Tau.
Amos Masondo, an MP on the portfolio committee for co-operative governance and traditional affairs, said during the Salga panel discussion that the perception that state security agencies were compromised should be investigated.
Masondo noted the inertia of the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority in probing and prosecuting relevant cases.
The Salga report came to the conclusion that "the culture of impunity ... is implied by the ineffectiveness of the justice system in the successful prosecution of murders in general".
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesman, Vuyo Mhaga, said on Thursday that the minister had not received an invitation from Salga and that Mbalula would have attended any meeting that sought to provide better policing.
No ministers had been invited to Thursday’s event.
The acting national police commissioner was invited but could not attend, and the police did not send any other representatives to the launch.