Police were investigating the possibility that taxi hitmen were behind a spate of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal in the months leading up to next week’s local government elections, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said on Wednesday.
Addressing journalists on the work of the task team established to probe “so-called political killings”, Nhleko said investigations were continuing, with several suspects arrested.
The task team in KwaZulu-Natal was made up of seven detectives, five members of police crime intelligence, four members of the Hawks, and 11 members that worked with the province’s taxi violence task team.
“We felt it was important to pull them into the equation precisely because you may find it’s possible that one particular case has got similar kinds of suspects in one form or another, precisely because most of these cases you’ll find hitmen are being used … and some of these hitmen are operating in the taxi industry,” said Nhleko.
Nhleko said that while the majority of the cases being investigated were in KwaZulu-Natal, they were investigating at least four murders in other provinces.
“In Gauteng, we stand at one particular case that arose on the 19th of June at the Pretoria showgrounds, where there was an ANC media briefing around a mayoral candidate,” said Nhleko. He was referring to an ANC member that was shot dead while waiting for the ruling party to announce Thoko Didiza as the mayoral candidate for Tshwane. One man was arrested and was released on bail. The case will be heard before court again on August 11.
Murder cases were also being investigated in Doornkop in North West, in Tsolo in the Eastern Cape and in Salvation in Mpumalanga.
The figures do not include politically related incidents reported this week.
In KwaZulu-Natal, a total of 25 cases were being investigated, said Nhleko. These included 14 cases of murder and attempted murder, two cases of arson, two of public violence, two of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (assault GBH), one case of malicious damage to property, and one of culpable homicide.
“We had seven arrests for murder and, on attempted murder, we effected two arrests. On the possession of unlicenced firearms, we’ve had three arrests; public violence eight arrests; assault GBH and pointing of firearm, three arrests,” said the minister.
Nhleko said police would be deployed throughout the country in the run-up to and after next Wednesday’s municipal polls to maintain law and order.
“We are quite committed as the SAPS [SA Police Service] in ensuring that we have peaceful elections in this country. We have successfully done that over the years, so we want to ensure that, even in these particular local government elections, we experience the same as South Africans.”
At least a dozen people are suspected to have been killed in politically motivated murders across the country. Nhleko could not provide an exact figure of the number of people killed in incidents related to the political contestation ahead of the August 3 polls.
In the latest incident, an ANC candidate for councillor in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in Port Elizabeth, 35-year-old Nceba Dywili, was gunned down by two unknown suspects on Tuesday night.