The Minister of Police Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA
The Minister of Police Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA

A prisoner serving time for another crime has been linked to the murder of ANC Youth League leader Sindiso Magaqa in July last year.

This was revealed by Police Minister Bheki Cele at an inter-ministerial committee meeting in Durban on Friday on the progress of investigations into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

Cele also said that the police were close on the heels of the killers of ANC activist Musawenkosi "Maqatha" Mchunu at KwaPata in Pietermaritzburg on May 11, and Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole in March.

The spate of political killings prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa in May to instruct his security cluster ministers to act with speed in arresting those responsible. Friday’s meeting was attended by the National Police Commissioner, acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner, and high-ranking officials from the Justice and Correctional Services department‚ National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the State Security Agency

Cele confirmed that another suspect linked to Magaqa’s murder was killed in a shoot-out with police after a foiled cash-in-transit heist in Durban in September last year. "We have identified the people that we need to get and put them in our hands. With the Sindiso one‚ we have identified that one person was killed and he was involved in other criminal activities. The other one is in prison for other things but we have begun to be link him to Sindiso."

Magaqa was shot on July 13 last year in an ambush in Ibisi village outside Umzimkhulu‚ a violence-ridden town in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

Cele announced that members of the task team investigating political killings in the province had been changed and that the new unit comprises 118 new members and eight from the previous team.

The new team — led by acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Lt Gen Nhlanhla "Lucky" Mkhwanazi; acting head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Brig Obed Ngwenya; and Brig Dumisani Khumalo from the police head office’s operational response services — has reinstated 12 of the 14 cases which had been withdrawn.

Cele said political killings cases have been increased from 98 to 126. The NPA has dedicated 16 prosecutors to support the investigating team to ensure effective case management and successful prosecutions‚ according to the minister.

"We are satisfied with the work this team has been doing thus far. Two weeks ago they arrested six people in connection with the spate of political killings. Two firearms were recovered and have already been linked to at least eight cases‚" said Cele.

He said that since the beginning of June‚ 512 people had been arrested in the province for illegal possessions of arms or ammunition, and that 706 illegal guns‚ including semi-automatic rifles‚ high-calibre rifles‚ shotguns‚ revolvers‚ pistols and homemade guns, and 6‚045 rounds of ammunition‚ have been seized.

"We have begun to reverse the scourge and with the team that we have [the situation] will be normalised. We will work hard to ensure the people of KwaZulu-Natal do not live in this fear."