Councillor in the dock
ANC activists painted the streets black, green and yellow when they swamped the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday to see the alleged killers of former ANC councillor Musawenkosi “Maqatha” Mchunu.
In the dock was ward 10 councillor Nkosinathi Gambu, who is charged along with Skhanyiso Zimu, Sfiso Mbelu, Mlungisi Zimu, Ayanda Ngubane and Gift Zungu. They face a string of charges, including one of conspiracy to commit murder and another of murder.
Mchunu was the public participation officer in the office of the Msunduzi speaker Jabu Ngubo, who was among the masses in court on Wednesday.
Mchunu was gunned down in May as he arrived at his home in KwaPata. The weekend’s arrests were the first since the incident.
Before his death, Mchunu had led several marches to the City Hall and the regional offices of the ANC, calling for a forensic investigation into the allegations of corruption that had been made about senior officials and politicians in Msunduzi.
On Monday, Mchunu’s wives Buyisile and Lungile sat quietly inside the packed courtroom, which was teeming with police officers from the Tactical Unit and the National Intervention Unit who were armed with R5 rifles and clad in protective gear.
There were even more people toyi-toyiing on Church Street, in front of the Bessie Head Library, calling for the suspects to be denied bail.
Others huddled outside the courtroom door, trying to push and squeeze their way to the front. Attempts to open the door to force their way inside the courtroom were foiled by police who used their bodies to keep the door shut from the inside.
Only selected people were allowed inside, much to the disdain of those who were packed like sardines wanting to see the men in the dock.
Buyisile and Lungile told The Witness that they would never find closure until their husband’s killers were sentenced.
“We can’t say much on the people that have been arrested but the law must take its course,” said Lungile.
The pair said they missed Mchunu every day and dreaded the day when his children would start asking questions about how he died. The youngest of Mchunu’s children is a year old.
“We are hoping that by the time they are grown enough to understand we would at least be able to tell them that their father’s killers are [in] jail,” said Lungile.
Blessing Dlamini said his best friend was killed for exposing corruption within Msunduzi and the ANC.
“It broke his heart to see the city that he loved being looted into a state of dysfunctionality by the very same people he called comrades.
“Maqatha loved the ANC and Pietermaritzburg and he had even gone as far as engaging the national executive committee on the corruption in Msunduzi,” he said.
Addressing the crowd after the court proceedings, ANC councillor Mtuza Mkhize and the SACP’s Rudolph Madlala said the governing party must stop protecting criminals who kill their own comrades.
“For a long time we’ve been saying that the politically motivated killings of our comrades are not committed by the opposition. The criminals break bread with us and murder us the next second,” said Madlala.
Mkhize said the ANC needs to take a stand and protect those who are speaking up against corruption as they are being silenced with bullets.
He said Gambu would no longer be recognised as a ward councillor so the ANC must denounce him.
“We want to go for by-elections so that we can elect a credible councillor like Maqatha would have been had they maliciously not removed his name from the candidates’ list,” said Mkhize.
The men have all been remanded in custody and will appear in court again on September 20.
ANC councillor Mtuza Mkhize trying to calm KwaPata residents as they tried to make their way into the courtroom on Monday.
The ANC has called on its members to co-operate with law enforcement agencies following the arrest of Nkosinathi Gambu.
The party issued a statement on Monday expressing shock at the arrest.
It said that while it believes that a person is innocent until proven guilty, the allegations against Gambu are serious. The matter deserves attention in the wake of political killings in the province.
“In this regard, we support all efforts of law enforcement agencies aimed at getting to the root cause of these killings. In addition, we are hopeful that the justice system will do its work independently and with speed,” said the statement.
ANC leaders have a responsibility to be exemplary in society.
Having a councillor implicated in murder is not only disappointing but calls for the ANC to be firmer on matters of discipline and personal conduct of its members, it said.
It said the party will start an internal disciplinary process to send a strong message, if necessary, after the matter has been finalised.
The statement added that the party will use the Thuma Mina Campaign to mobilise communities to stand together in defence of “our freedom and democracy”.
Freedom is threatened when someone is murdered, irrespective of their position in society, it said.