Can we Stop the Political Violence in KwaZulu-Natal?

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Is there anybody who is stepping forward to make an effort to stop the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)?

On Monday another regional ANC leader,  KwaNdengezi Ward 12 chairperson Thulani Nxumalo,  was gunned down near his home shortly after a branch executive committee (BEC) meeting.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo confirmed the killing and said a murder case was being investigated.

“I can confirm that Thulani Nxumalo was walking on foot in KwaNdengezi when he was attacked and shot dead by unknown suspect/s,” Naidoo said.

The ANC, which said it was “shocked and outraged”, described Nxumalo’s murder on Monday night as “brutal, callous, and cold-blooded”. The party urged the police to act speedily to bring the culprits to justice.

All of this sounds so familiar because it happens with terrifying regularity. I think as many as 10 prominent ANC members have been murdered in the province this year.

This is how it goes down: A political leader is murdered, usually shot; the Party dips its banner and pays tribute; the police say they are on the case and nothing happens. Until it happens again.

In this province we have had our fill of violence. The killings that increased in frequency in the run-up to the 2016 local elections have just bled over to the run up to the 2019 General Election.

Liberation Election Violence

I understand our particular colonial legacy and the division between the political factions especially the ANC and IFP in the Province. We remember how the fragmented KwaZulu Bantustan boasted a sizeable movement – Inkatha – whose support was bolstered by significant business interests and supposedly “liberal” whites.  And plenty of money and military training from the Apartheid regime.  4 000 deaths were recorded in the May 1994-December 1998 period.

Between 1985 and 1999, at least 15 000 people died, countless thousands were injured, and had their homes destroyed, and were gravely traumatised (especially children) by the violence.  Dozens of guns caches –including truckloads of weapons from the Vlakplaas hit squad base – still remain unaccounted for.

But this is all background scenery; the reality is that now, in 2018 productive young people who have taken on political responsibility are being shot down in the street and nobody is paying the price.

Cele Announces Breaktrough in August

There has been some progress. On 3 August Sunday Times ran a story: “Cele announces breakthroughs in KZN political killings”.

‘A prisoner serving time for another crime has been linked to the murder of ANC Youth League leader Sindiso Magaqa in July last year.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 minister also talks about a real task team with high ranking cops and prosecutors. He talks about arrests and illegal firearms and says, “We have begun to reverse the scourge and with the team that we have KZN [the situation] will be normalised. We will work hard to ensure that the people of KZN do not live in this fear‚” said Cele.

But How About Some Real Action Minister Bheki Cele?

Earlier this year President Cyril Ramaphosa formed a ministerial task team which includes the police minister Bheki Cele, the state security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, the minister of defence and military veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Justice Minister Michael Masutha.

We know that the ministers are not going to solve anything. And we are suspicious when we hear of  arrests or random people, without any explanation of how or why. We know witnesses live in fear of their lives. We appreciate what comrade Bheki is doing, but we want more.

Is the SAPS too compromised or are they simply not up to the task of actually investigating? And the Hawks?  In case you haven’t noticed, our justice system relies on confessions, not investigations.

Two Murdered in one Day in May

Earlier this year there was a South African Police Service (SAPS) political violence task team appointed to probe murders of ANC and IFP members according to acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Maj-Gen Bheki Langa after two people, a prominent KwaZulu-Natal African National Congress activist and an Inkatha Freedom Party municipal councillor were shot dead in two separate incidents on the same Friday night in early May 2018.

Friends and ANC members, gathered at the house of slain ANC branch convener in the Moses Mabhida region, Musa Mchunu the previous night.

These murders brought the number of alleged political killings of members of different political parties to well over 80 since 2011, when added to figures presented by the ANC at the Moerane Commission of inquiry last year.

Independent researcher and KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas has placed the figure as high as 104 over the same period. When 2018 murders that are thought to be politically motivated are added to her figures, the number sits at around 110. (May2018)

So I’m going to come up with an answer.

How to Start an Investigation into the Political killings in KZN

First of all, employ one of two reputable firms of private investigators and make them accountable only to Minister Cele. Give them access to all the police records and reports and give them a time-frame of say six months to complete the investigation.  Give them a decent budget and access to legal resources for warrants etc.

Who does the Investigation look at?

I believe these political killings have three or four obvious suspect pools:

  • The opposition party
  • Jealousy within the party
  • Personal – money, sex, power
  • Third force – come on, this is South Africa

Political killings by the Opposition

In KZN we default to ANC/IFP killings. I don’t know if the Red Berets are training assassins, but I doubt it. So, are these killings being done by a group of people or is there a hit man/woman? Are they random, just part of the violence in a violent region? Are the murderers dissatisfied individuals who have a warped loyalty to their party or have they been mandated by leadership to take out some opposition politicians?

Inter Party Rivalries and Jealousy

Power is dangerous. It brings all kinds of goggas out of the woodwork, especially those you are closest to, your own comrades. The African National Congress in KZN is fractured to the point of resorting to the Courts to settle differences between factions.

The IFP is not much better. It is entirely possible that these political assassinations are performed by someone within the party or even under the orders of one faction or another. Finding out which factions within their parties the murdered men were associated with would be helpful.

Maybe the Murder was Personal

We know politicians are generally outgoing people, who earn good salaries and have power. It is easy to step on somebody’s toes on the government tender dance floor. I have also heard rumors of politicians having affairs and spending time in hotels and at conferences and workshops with other people’s wives. Then again, domestic problems are also very possible. It could be a good cover to get rid of a cheating spouse, to chalk it up to political violence?

Don’t Forget About Third Force Killings

The Americans call them “False Flag” operations and for those who aren’t familiar with these terms, third force killings are when a murder or wave of violence is set up to make the investigation look in the wrong direction.

The “Third Force” was a term used by leaders of the ANC during the late 1980s and early 1990s to refer to a clandestine force believed to be responsible for a surge in violence in KwaZulu-Natal, and townships around and south of the Witwatersrand.  It is still darkly referred to among comrades.

We don’t actually know who specifically wants to destabilize the political landscape. When one thinks who has most to lose and most to gain, you can go around in circles.

Likely Pool of Suspects

But the pool of suspects is not big – it is likely to be a man with a gun and a car. Ok, that is very basic, but it excludes plenty of people. I’m sure the police have data on the killings which could be put into a spreadsheet to narrow down the odds.

Also, most of these murders happened in townships or in public areas. Have you ever seen an empty street in a township? There must be plenty of witnesses. Politicians also don’t usually travel alone. They have an entourage or simply hangers on.

As with all these kinds of cases fear will be a deterrent for witnesses to come forward. A free hotline can be set up and billboards can advertise the number. Tips that lead to good information – anonymous information can be rewarded.

The most recent crime scenes can be recreated and filmed into a documentary with an appeal for witnesses for come forward.

Special Court

Like the special courts that South Africa set up during the 2010 world cup, a special court can be set up to hear and process the legal issues that arise.

My Plan to Bring the Bad Guys to Book

When I’m on a roll, I can go on and on.

Ok, this is just my plan and I have no legal or law enforcement training other than watching cop shows on TV and reading “skiet and donners”. But at least it is a plan. A plan that can bring some bad guys to book.

The last part of my plan is openness. The resolution of these cases from inception of the crime to conviction must be written up and made public. Becoming a politician, should not be a potential death sentence.

This darkness must be brought into the light.