Thabiso Zulu, a close comrade of former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, who was murdered in 2017, has been on the run since giving evidence at the Moerane commission into the political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zulu’s exposure of the suspected killers of Magaqa was never going to be taken lying down by the perpetrators.
Magaqa was shot and later died in hospital.
He was supposedly killed by izinkabi – literally meaning oxen, but now the name for hired killers from KwaZulu-Natal, oxen in the yoke of the criminals who hire them.
Zulu, a former youth league secretary in the Harry Gwala region, had given evidence at the Moerane commission about mass corruption and looting in the municipality.
He was shot in the arm by three men at Copesville outside Pietermaritzburg in an assassination attempt last month.
Three men – maritime operational manager and former policeman Sibonelo Myeza, businessman Mbulelo Mpofana, and Mxolisi Ncalane who was also a policeman – are on remand, awaiting trial expected in April next year for the murder of Magaqa.
They are also charged with the attempted murders of ANC councillors Jabu Msiya and Nontsikelelo Mafu, who were wounded but survived when Magaqa was killed. The two councillors are in hiding.
These izinkabi killings are a national scandal. They put in question the integrity of the courts, the police and our political system.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had issued an instruction that Zulu be given police protection after his life was threatened.
But, alas, Police Minister Bheki Cele found good reasons not to provide him with security.
Zulu’s exposure of the alleged killers has stirred up a hornets’ nest and destroyed his security conditions.
He is now semi-underground, being protected by his friends and comrades instead of the police.
He was interviewed by eNCA from a hiding place earlier this month and said he had told President Cyril Ramaphosa about his fate in a phone conversation, but received no help. He and his fellow anti-corruption activist, Les Stuta – like Zulu, a friend of Magaqa – are in hiding together.
eNCA stated that Zulu “wants Ramaphosa to take this matter seriously” and says “what Ramaphosa does next will determine whether the government he leads is serious about fighting corruption”.
This poses the question: Is the president in charge of the state or are the izinkabi now the government?
If the state cannot protect whistle-blowers, who is the state protecting?
One also has to ask: Is the Moerane commission just a whitewash, despite the glaring evidence presented to it?
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has also failed to protect the whistle-blowers.
Zulu has lost faith in his party’s structures in the province. When he went to court there was scant support.
But when the former mayor of eThekwini and corruption-accused Zandile Gumede appeared in court, her army of supporters flooded the gallery there.
The situation is a festering sore, exposing a national disease that is spreading.
Another ANCYL activist, Lethabo Nkoana, was shot dead in a political faction quarrel at a rally at Temba Stadium in Hammanskraal, Gauteng, on November 9.
A person believed to be the organiser of the rally was also shot and was rushed to hospital, but survived.
A police spokesperson said Nkoana was killed “trying to defuse a fight when an unknown man emerged from the crowd and fired shots at him”.
The killer escaped.
The reality is, the youth league has never recovered since the departure of Julius Malema.
The league’s task team includes Malusi Gigaba, Fikile Mbalula and other former youth league leaders, and is repeating the same mistakes they have made since 1994, using the league for factional battles in the ANC.
After the departure of Malema, the youth league was captured by the Guptas, as was confirmed by Collen Maine, who gave evidence that former North West ANC chairperson and premier Supra Mahumapelo introduced him to the Guptas.
The armed violence that is accompanying the task team is part of factional fights based on list politics, all fighting to get political power so they can get access to resources, tenders, municipalities, state-owned enterprises and, ultimately, the finance ministry.
Those who fear losing elections resort to seizing power through violence and assassinations.
Political killings are here to stay until police management can be resuscitated to a credible state.
Isn’t it clear that this country needs to establish democratic ways of winning political office, and not through armed actions anymore?
Yet our electoral system, in which voters and party members are deprived of power in choosing or getting rid of political appointees, is the open gateway for these political killings.
Supporters of our top-down, party-list system of patronage and gate-keeping should ask themselves if they are not responsible for our regime of killings that are now intrinsic in our so-called free South Africa.
Where is freedom for Zulu?
We should all be ashamed. This is why we need electoral reform instead of izinkabi.
Makgoale is a rank and file member of the ANC