A former Mkhondo Local Municipality member of mayoral committee (MMC) in Mpumalanga is in hiding with her husband and her sister after surviving an assassination attempt.
The trio, who survived a hit in February, told City Press how they had to vacate their homes in Piet Retief, near the border with eSwatini, after receiving information that hitmen were hired to kill them in October last year.
Speaking from an undisclosed location, Thembisile Khumalo, the former MMC community and public safety, told City Press how life was going so well for her and her family before she had a fallout with her political principal Mkhondo mayor, Vusi Motha.
Khumalo claimed that shortly after the fallout, she discovered there was a plot to have her and other politicians killed by hitmen allegedly hired through taxi organisations.
I could no longer attend work meetings and go to work because I knew that my life was in danger
“It was in October when I discovered the plot. I took my children and told my husband [Vuyani Khumalo] that we should immediately leave Piet Retief and start a new life somewhere. I could no longer attend work meetings and go to work because I knew that my life was in danger,” she said.
Khumalo’s fears proved real when she, her husband and two other people were ambushed and sprayed with 12 bullets while hiding out in Gauteng. They all survived.
But Motha has denied the allegations and has since fired Khumalo for being absent from work.
“There was no way I was going to stay in the area knowing very well that my name was on the hit list,” she said.
Khumalo alleged that some of the who were on the hit list and remained in the small town have been killed.
Tensions have been palpable in the area since last year. Residents organised service delivery protests and marches against the mayor. They alleged that there was rampant corruption and nepotism.
Some spoke out on national television, alleging that attempts had been made on their lives and accused the mayor of hiring hitmen to kill them.
Khumalo said the fallout was because she knew “sensitive” information that Motha had discussed with her husband, a local taxi operator.
She said once Motha realised that she knew about the plot, their relationship soured. “The mayor started spreading rumours that my husband was lying about him by claiming that he [the mayor] wanted to hire hitmen to kill certain politicians in the Gert Sibande region,” she said.
This matter, she said, was discussed in the Mkhondo ANC caucus on September 18 last year where it was agreed that whoever had information must engage the police.
Khumalo said that Motha called her to a meeting at a local lodge, after the ANC caucus meeting. When she and her sister arrived at Sundown lodge, they found local businesspeople and senior police officers.
The MMC is not involved and is looking for attention
Mkhondo mayor, Vusi Motha
Motha confirmed that he called an ANC caucus meeting to discuss the issue.
“This matter is not about the councillors but a councillor’s lover. The MMC is not involved and is looking for attention. One person approached me and said that the MMC’s husband said they can make money through me. It’s nonsense that I have met the MMC’s husband. I’ve never met him, not even at a funeral or a party,” Motha said.
He said that the rumour was that he had bought hitmen to assassinate Gert Sibande ANC chairperson and that district’s mayor, Muzi Chirwa.
Motha is the regional ANC deputy chairperson. “Chirwa and I agreed that this was nonsense. He produced his records and I produced mine,” he said.
Chirwa said: “These are just rumours. We’re working well together.”
He said the ANC regional executive committee would be visiting Mkhondo soon to “appraise ourselves on matters”.
Meanwhile, another former Mkhondo top official has also alleged that Motha threatened to kill him.
Treasure Thabede, the former manager of the Mkhondo Local Economic Development claimed the mayor made the threat during a management meeting.
Thabede made the allegation on his Facebook page. He resigned on June 10 last year.
However, Motha dismissed Thabede’s claim saying he was looking for sympathy.
“Every time he provokes people … he’s looking for sympathy. If there’s such a situation, he must go to the police,” the mayor said.
Sizwe sama Yende