SA Police Establish Task Force to ‘Deal With Political Killings’ Ahead of May Election

Following a Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Cluster held in Pretoria last week, South African Police Minister Bheki Cele announced the creation of a task force to address the rising threat of political killings as the country moves closer to the date of its Presidential election.

What You Need to Know:

The announcement came after 54-year-old Poppy Morapedi, an African National Congress (ANC) ward councillor in the Rustenburg Local Municipality, was shot dead by four unknown assailants while walking home on Friday.

Likewise, on April 2nd, 35-year-old Thabo Ngwenya, an ANC ward councillor for Mpumalanga’s Nkomazi Local Municipality, was shot and killed by four armed assailants. The perpetrators made off with Ngwenya’s Toyota GD6 ute as well as his mobile phone.

A month prior, on February 7th, Ndukenhle Duma– an Inkatha Freedom Party ward councillor for Nongoma Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was shot and killed. During the attack on Duma, the perpetrators fired shots at a passing school transport vehicle, killing two children aged 11 and 12 years.

In early March, 48-year-old Vusimuzi Ntuli, a member of the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe Party, was shot dead by unknown assailants while outside a hostel in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal.

In December 2023, 46-year-old Councillor Nhlalayenza Ndlovu, the Democratic Alliance’s Chief Whip in the uMngeni Municipality, was shot and killed inside his home by unknown assailants.

In previous years, political killings were largely concentrated in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, with 155 political killings, including the murder of 52 councillors, investigated in KZN alone since 2018.

The Details:

While speaking at a media briefing after the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Cluster, Bheki Cele stated, “a special team was formed to deal with political violence in the province of KZN… that team has expanded its mandate to other provinces, especially in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo and had good successes.”

“Basically where it is based in KZN has a lot of successes, almost 338 people have been arrested there in the province, and 18 of them have been given life sentences. And 36 of them have been given sentences between 10 and 73 years.”

Despite Cele’s proclaimed successes, political killings still occur at alarming rates, with citizens weary of an uptick in violence similar to that of the nation’s July 2021 unrest, which left more than 350 dead.

According to a News24 special report, “so frequent are the [political] killings that they are now colloquially referred to as “tournaments” in the northern part of the province where killings are rife. When the hit is out on you, it’s called a ‘tournament’. You will hear people say ‘sebeyikhiphile i-tournament’ [IsiZulu for ‘the tournament is out/has been issued’], said one political insider with knowledge of the political killings.”

So, What Now?:

Throughout the years, various Police Ministers have created task forces to probe political killings in the country, and although arrests are made, the killings continue. At the heart of the issue is the struggle for power between the nation’s political parties, each seeking to solidify a hold for their party in the nation’s various municipalities. Control of a Municipality means control of the budget, with corrupt councillors able to enrich themselves financially and maintain their hold on power through ordering ‘tournaments’ on opposition councillors who threaten the position of them and their party.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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