Top city official still drawing salary from jail cell
A KwaZulu-Natal city official, who has been in police custody on two murder charges since July, is still drawing his salary.
Umzinyathi municipality deputy mayor Felamandla Mkhize is accused of killing fellow National Freedom Party councillors Bongani Shelembe, of Msinga, and Isaac Nhlebela, of Nquthu.
Nhlebela was the chairman of the Nquthu constituency in Umzinyathi district and was gunned down near Hazeldene farm at Nquthu on July 6.
Mkhize, who earns R500000 a year, was arrested soon after the murders.
Municipal spokesman Jeff Hassan yesterday confirmed that Mkhize was still on the council's payroll.
Hassan said that, shortly after Mkhize' s arrested , the municipality received a letter from his lawyer warning that it would be improper to suspend him or cut his salary until he had been convicted .
"Based on the letter, our hands are tied. We can't really do anything because we can be sued. We have to keep him on our payroll until such time that the court has ruled on the charges against him," Hassan said.
National Freedom Party general secretary Nhlanhla Khubisa could not confirm Mkhize's suspension.
"We will make a pronouncement on that by the end of the week," Khubisa said.
Provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the department was following the matter closely.
"All our actions in the first place are guided by the constitution, which presumes that everyone is innocent until found guilty. However, we are also investigating various legal mechanisms to address this matter in such a way that will shield the municipality from disrepute and will ensure that its credibility is protected," Mabaso said.
The municipality is one of the 13 local authorities that received clean audits in the past financial year.
Mkhize and fellow councillor Mkhonzeni Ntuli are also facing two additional charges of attempted murder.
Last month, 28-year-old Khawulani Mkhize, who is not related to the deputy mayor, was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to the murder of Nhlebela, which he claimed was over a "scramble for position" in the party.
He told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that he had been hired by Mkhize to transport the killers.
In his plea explanation, he said he had approached the deputy mayor in June for a job and was willing to do anything because his family was starving.
He testified that, on July 5, Mkhize told him that he needed him to drive to Nquthu the next day with two other people to "deal" with a person who had been threatening his life.
Khawulani Mkhize told the court that he did not participate in the killing.
The chairman of the Oshabeni branch of the IFP on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast was gunned down in the early hours of yesterday. Bongani Lushaba was ambushed by unknown assailants just after 9am.