Murder Inc in Mbombela

07 February 2010 - 00:46 By Charles Molele and Mzilikazi Wa Afrika

ANC boss used to have opponents shot, but switched to poison last year

A 25-year-old contract killer has accused an influential ANC leader in Mpumalanga of offering him R100000 and a cushy government job if he poisoned government officials who were blocking access to tenders linked to the 2010 soccer World Cup.

The ANC boss, whose name is known to the Sunday Times, was fingered by more than a dozen other sources interviewed during a three-week investigation into the killings of at least a dozen senior politicians in Mpumalanga starting in 1998.

The would-be assassin said he had been given the poison and had been ready to do the job, but had pulled out after a disagreement with his "client" over an advance fee.

Though his three intended victims are still alive, six officials were murdered or died in suspicious circumstances in Mpumalanga last year alone and another has been killed this year. Local party leaders and officials who spoke to the Sunday Times mentioned a "hit list" of other proposed victims and said they were living in fear.

The Sunday Times has been given the full name of a Mozambican gangster known as "Josh" and told that he was responsible for the murder in January 2009 of Mbombela (Nelspruit) council speaker Jimmy Mohlala.

"Josh" agreed to speak to our reporters in Mozambique, but then changed his mind.

ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu - the former speaker of the Mpumalanga legislature - said the ruling party was aware of the alleged hit list and had sent a task team to investigate those responsible for the killings of its members in the province.

The Sunday Times investigation took reporters to sources in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Mozambique. Those interviewed included senior ANC members, municipal officials and National Intelligence Agency sources, as well as the province's former ANC Youth League leader, James Nkambule, and Mpu-malanga Democratic Alliance leader Anthony Benadie

The Sunday Times has given details of the plot to police Superintendent Sibongile Nkosi and Mpumalanga's deputy provincial commissioner, Rex Machabi. They said the would-be killer would be interviewed soon.

The assassin said many people lived in fear of the ANC leader he had named. "This politician must be exposed and expelled from the ANC in order to stop his reign of terror in Mpumalanga. I am scared of him. Even those in the higher echelons are scared of him because he is too dangerous. I don't want to go on killing innocent people," he said. However, he did not admit to any killings.

A former ANC regional leader, Alfred Monareng, said the ANC boss and his cabal used to have their opponents shot, but had switched to poison last year.

He said the assassin interviewed by the Sunday Times had confessed to him that he had planned to spike a bottle of Johnny Walker whisky on Christmas Eve while drinking with him at his home in White River, where he works as a senior waste manager in the Mbombela municipality.

"He told me he was about to poison me, but decided not to," said Monareng. "The motive behind the plot to kill me is apparently to force me to vacate my post in order to make way for a preferred Samwu (municipal workers' union) candidate who is known to me. They cannot find any case of misconduct, irregularities or corrupt activity, so they have resorted to poisoning me," he said.

Monareng said he had not believed the confession, but then discovered that other suspicious deaths, including that of his brother, could have been as a result of poison.

"We now suspect that my brother, Themba (regional secretary), Mthandazo Ngobeni (chairman of the ANC Youth League), Vusi Sibiya (regional secretary), Lucas Shongwe (regional secretary) and the fiery ANC member Michael Sifunda were allegedly poisoned, as they showed similar symptoms before they died."

They all vomited a white foam before dying.

Nelspruit mayor Lassy Chiwayo, whose name is on the hit list, said he was living in fear after receiving death threats on his cellphone. He has sent a report to ANC headquarters at Luthuli House about his victimisation.

"I have been told I will go back home in a coffin," said Chiwayo.

Deputy mayor Nackie Ndlovu said she had been told of plans to poison her. "I fear for my life and cannot trust anyone. There have been so many killings in Mpumalanga. We are pleading with the ANC to do something because we are really not safe any more," she said.

At least 12 local leaders have been murdered or have died in suspicious circumstances in Mpumalanga since 1998. Police say they are investigating, but no one has been arrested.

People who spoke to the Sunday Times said they were afraid to give information to police because they did not know which faction of the party the law enforcement agents supported.

DA provincial leader Benadie slammed Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza for his silence on the deaths of three senior officials who had been on the alleged hit list.

"Why have we not heard (from) the premier on these murders, the hit list and poisoning claims? The premier is a feared man. Our constitutional democracy is at stake if people won't talk because they are afraid of being taken out," said Benadie.

Former youth league leader Nkambule said he knew who was behind at least one of the killings of senior officials in government and had given the information to crime intelligence officials. He said some of the murders were planned at a farm outside Nelspruit owned by another ANC politician.

Nkambule made headlines when he alleged that premier Mabuza had contributed R400000 to sponsor President Jacob Zuma's wedding to his second wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli.

Mohlala was shot dead at his house in Kanyamazane, outside Nelspruit, after he allegedly blew the whistle on the abuse of power and corruption relating to the construction of the province's R1-billion Mbombela Stadium intended for use during the 2010 World Cup.

Four weeks ago, Sammy Mpatlanyane, communications director in the provincial Department of Arts, Culture and Sport, was also gunned down at his home in Nelspruit.

Mpatlanyane allegedly was regarded as an obstacle by the ANC boss and his powerful allies to winning irregular tenders involving the World Cup.

ANC national spokesman Mthembu said: "We are aware of the hit list and allegations against the politicians allegedly involved in these killings, but we cannot do anything until the police crack these cases.

"We are particularly incensed that nobody has been brought to book since the murder of Mohlala. His murder happened so many months ago, but until now we still have not received any information that makes us confident that the matter is being dealt with properly."

Surge in Mpumalanga killings

Chasing the Fifa millions and other lucrative deals has been fatal for many in Mpumalanga.

The following people have either been killed, received death threats, disappeared or survived assassination attempts on their lives. The hit men - most of them alleged to be Zimbabwean and Mozambican nationals - are still at large.

  • Saul Shabangu, (killed in 1998);
  • Hebron Maisela (killed in 1998);
  • Sydney de Lange (killed in 1998);
  • Rose Alleta Mnisi (killed in 1999);
  • Caswell Maluleke, (survived assassination in 2000);
  • Joshua Ntshuhle (disappeared in 2005);
  • Sizile Ndlovu, (survived assassination in 2006);
  • Thandi Mtsweni (killed in 2008);
  • Jimmy Mohlala (killed in 2009);
  • Isaac Mohale Matsoabane (killed in 2009);
  • Samuel Mpatlanyane (killed in 2010);
  • Themba Monareng (died 2009);
  • Mike Sifunda (died 2009);
  • Simon Lubisi (died 2009);
  • Lucas Shongwe (died 2009).