Gunshots and poison - Who killed Sindiso Magaqa?
'Today [Tuesday] you could see who is who. It's a fact that Comrade Magaqa never saw eye to eye with some members of the provincial executive committee'
Faction fighting was likely to have been behind the shooting in July of former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, who died on Monday in hospital, apparently from his wounds - but now there is speculation that he was poisoned.
Magaqa, 35, died in Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital on Monday after complaining of stomach pains. It emerged on Tuesday that The Hawks are investigating allegations that Magaqa had been poisoned.
Family members and a neighbour have told The Times that he had been on the mend but his condition deteriorated at the weekend.
Police said a postmortem would determine the cause of death.
Magaqa and two other municipal councillors were ambushed on July 13. They were shot a dozen times as they were getting out of their car at a shop in a village near Umzimkhulu, in southern KwaZulu-Natal.
Umzimkhulu is plagued by political violence. Five councillors having been murdered this year alone.
Factionalism appears to be at the heart of the violence.
The rival factions support either ousted KwaZulu-Natal premier and provincial ANC chairman Senzo Mchunu, or Sihle Zikalala, who replaced him after a hotly contested election in 2015.
The bitterness of the rivalry was exposed when three high-ranking ANC members were chased from Magaqa's home when they visited the family to pay their respects.
Mluleki Ndobe, one of the ANC's top five in KwaZulu-Natal, who is the ANC deputy secretary in the province and mayor of the Harry Gwala District municipality, was heckled.
So, too, were Umzimkhulu mayor Mphuthumi Mpabanga, who led the council and executive committee, and municipal manager Zweliphansi Sikhosana.
The three were chased away as they accompanied Zikalala and national executive committee member and presidential aspirant Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Only Zikalala and Dlamini-Zuma, who hails from the Harry Gwala region, were allowed into the house to offer their condolences.
A member of the regional top-five executive said: "Today [Tuesday] you could see who is who. It's a fact that Comrade Magaqa never saw eye to eye with some members of the provincial executive committee, especially Ndobe and members of the ANC Youth League. There was still distrust between them after the disciplinary hearing in 2012 that led to his suspension," he said.
Magaqa was disciplined for bringing the party into disrepute, along with Julius Malema, now leader of the EFF. Malema was expelled from the league and Magaqa suspended for a year.
Ndobe confirmed that he had been chased away from the house but played down the incident.
He said the assailants were just "unruly kids" who prevented people, including provincial ANCYL secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo and "many other comrades" from paying their respects.
"We will be correcting the situation soon," he said.
Zikalala said Magaqa's death was an embarrassment to the ANC.
The Times has learned that high-profile politicians close to Magaqa, including KwaZulu-Natal MEC for community safety Mxolisi Kaunda, had approached the Hawks with allegations that Magaqa had been poisoned after being shot.
"Individuals who are politically closer to him, including the safety and security MEC, suspect that he might have been poisoned [but] there is no evidence.
A pathologist has been appointed to refute or confirm the suspicion," a source said.
KwaZulu-Natal department of community safety spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said that Kaunda had spoken to the police but denied that he suspected poisoning.
National Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that the possibility of poisoning was being investigated.
"We have heard [that he was poisoned]. We have to do a postmortem. We will know for sure after that."
- Additional reporting by Matthew Savides