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Police minister Bheki Cele with provincial commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi at a briefing on political killings in Durban, February 2 2022. Picture: ORRIN SINGH
Police minister Bheki Cele with provincial commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi at a briefing on political killings in Durban, February 2 2022. Picture: ORRIN SINGH

Pressure is mounting in KwaZulu-Natal for the provincial government to urgently implement the key findings of the Moerane Commission, to stem unprecedented intra-party political murders in the province.

Police minister Bheki Cele has visited the region three times in the past two months, (joined by members of the interministerial task force of national ministers of the security cluster) and  announced that intra-political conflicts within the ANC, IFP and National Freedom Party (NFP) had resulted in those parties being most affected by political killings.

Cele’s visit to the region follows the gunning down of political leaders including councillors and offices bearers, as well as a spate of mass shootings since the start of 2022.

According to Cele, since 2018, the task team launched to investigate politically related killings has investigated 258 dockets in which 289 arrests have been made on politically related cases, with a 54% detection rate, 33% court rate and an 83% conviction rate. Most of the new cases were reported before, during and after the 2021 local government elections.

Business, religious and traditional leaders, community leaders and political parties believe that the Moerane Commission findings hold the key to ending the intra-party murders. Political commentator Protas Madlala, who gave evidence in the Moerane commission, said it was clear that the root of the murders of councillors and political office bearers was about financial enrichment.

“Being elected into political office carries prestige and opportunities for access to resources through tenders and other financial avenues. It has resulted in corruption. The entry to politics has become a violent contestation aided by patronage and cadre deployment and not skills and the ability to deliver on service delivery. Going forward, it is important that the suspects are not killed during arrest so that the courts can hear more about who their handlers are”.

The commission was established on October 2016 and pointed to deep political tension across political parties, a poor Crime Intelligence Unit and a spate of assassinations underpinning political advancement.

One of the key findings in the 423-page report chaired by advocate Marumo Moerane was access to resources through the tender system being the main cause of the murder of politicians. It called on political parties to take responsibility for the violent competition between their members for political positions and power. It pointed out the serious weaknesses in the criminal justice system, as well as national intelligence and other security apparatus.

The president of the Minara Chamber of Commerce, Solly Suleman — which represents businesses and entrepreneurs following Islamic principles and ethos — said the province was in a state of flux.

“Economic recovery is slow post the July unrest. These killings do not send out a very positive message to outside investors. The Moerane commission spoke about skills and training for government leaders — we need that urgently so that the province and country can prosper.”

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said they were hoping the task team would make arrests soon for their members gunned down recently.

“It is true that we are the most affected and hopefully the task team will help in solving a number of unresolved cases. The killings are having a negative impact and members are fearful, not knowing what might happen to their loved ones. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest proliferation of illegal firearms and izinkabi (hitmen). If the team can focus on destabilising that cohort, it will help a lot in bringing stability to the province.”

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said unless arrests were made for the deaths of their members, it was difficult to say who was responsible. “We do believe that the arrest and life sentences for those responsible in the killings of our members are crucial so that we understand why they are being killed. Moreover the inability to implement the Moerane commission recommendations are problematic and as the IFP we will be raising this matter in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature. There is no place for killers in our province.”

NFP spokesperson Canaan Mdletshe said failure to implement the commission’s findings had resulted in the murder of their members. “While we acknowledge the fact that infighting within political parties contributes to this demon, it is, however, clear that failure to implement the commission’s findings is key. Also, not so long ago, we as the NFP proposed that maybe it was time to review and revisit some sections of the Election Act, so we could abolish altogether by-elections as we believe having by-elections each time a councillor is killed exacerbates the problem”.

The report also found there was a loss of public confidence in the criminal justice system but especially the police services and security agencies in general, including crime intelligence, national intelligence, and the specialised policing and prosecution agencies.

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