Police brigadier accused of stalling political killings probe
Ramaphosa orders high-level delegation to troubled province
A senior police officer in KwaZulu-Natal stands accused of meddling in political rivalries and political violence in the province - the very crime he was tasked with investigating and preventing.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating Brigadier Bongani Maqashalala.
A complaint of obstructing and defeating the ends of justice, and contravening the Protection of Information Act has been made against him. He is the commander of the unit fighting organised crime in the province.
Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini confirmed that the complaint had been made against Maqashalala.
Maqashalala was also investigating political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, an urgent priority of President Cyril Ramaphosa. The latest killings were those of an IFP councillor, Sibuyiselo Dlamini, in Ulundi this week, and a former ANC councillor, Musawenkosi Maqatha Mchunu, in Pietermaritzburg.
Police Minister Bheki Cele's spokeswoman, Nonkululeko Phokane, said Ramaphosa had ordered the security cluster to solve all high-profile cases and KwaZulu-Natal political killings.
A high-ranking delegation, including Cele, State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, Justice Minister Michael Masutha, NPA head Shaun Abrahams and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, will meet in Durban tomorrow.
Amid this official urgency, Maqashalala has been accused of interfering with the investigation of political killings in the volatile Umzimkhulu region. Former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa was shot there in July. He died in hospital in September.
Another high-profile victim last year was the municipal manager of neighbouring Richmond, Sibusiso Sithole. Neither of the murders has been solved.
The Sunday Times has established that the investigation of Maqashalala concerns a meeting the officer had with the mayor of Umzimkhulu, Mphuthumi Mpabanga, in June. Maqashalala told the mayor the Hawks had uncovered a plot to kill him.This year Mpabanga testified before the Moerane commission, which is investigating political killings in the province.
Mpabanga told the commission that warring ANC factions were to blame for the killings in the Harry Gwala region in southern KwaZulu-Natal of which Umzimkhulu is part.
He refused to discuss his testimony with the Sunday Times, but in a letter he submitted to the commission Mpabanga said he met Maqashalala on June 27 after several requests from Maqashalala that they meet in secret. He agreed to the meeting, which took place in a car. Mpabanga said he had had doubts about meeting Maqashalala because he did not know him.
He also questioned the need for secrecy. He also had reservations about Maqashalala's request that they should not be seen by Umzimkhulu police.
"He said the reason for him to bring this news to me is because they want to beef up my security. He told me that the whole plot is being done together with one of my bodyguards. He [asked] if I may allow them [the police] to provide their own security and change all my guards," said Mpabanga.
Mpabanga said Maqashalala also requested contact numbers of his bodyguards, but he refused.The meeting left him "in a state of confusion and more fear". He was worried that the meeting might have been an attempt to interfere with his security detail to make him more vulnerable.
"Surprisingly, ever since I last met him that day, I never heard anything from him. I left with the question: what was going on? What are the developments with regard to my security in this situation? Why are there no arrests if there was such an interception by the Hawks?"
Maqashalala referred queries to Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi, who said the Hawks were not aware of any investigation against him.
During his presentation to the Moerane commission in March, Maqashalala said cases had been withdrawn for various reasons which were beyond the control of the police.
These cases included witnesses being killed and others going missing because of intimidation.
The provincial chairman of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association, Themba Mavundla, said the organisation would get involved.
"We are going to ... approach the suspects and hand them over to the police. Right now there is no deterrent, people are being killed but nothing [is being done]," he said.
STATUS OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE CASES IN KZN
• 31 cases registered
• 12 in court
• 42 arrests
• 7 cases registered
• 3 in court
• 7 arrests
Conspiracy to murder
• 1 case
• 1 in court
• 7 arrests
— Source: The Hawks..