WATCH: KwaZulu-Natal moots special courts for political killings ahead of 2024 elections

Published Sep 6, 2023


In a bid to secure a speedy conviction of suspects arrested for political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is looking at having special courts preside over these cases.

The courts would be located in all corners of the province.

That was revealed on Wednesday in Durban when the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele briefed the media on behalf of the inter-ministerial task team on the latest convictions, investigations, and trends in political killings in the province.

Giving his update, Cele said it was not true that nothing was being done to turn the tide against the scourge.

He then announced that since it appears in the eyes of the public that it takes long to conclude these cases, a special court is being mooted.

“In enhancing the work of the Task Team, the IMC has resolved that there will be dedicated courts to speedily prosecute these matters,” he said.

Elaborating on the matter of the special court case, advocate Elvis Gcweka from the NPA, who was present during the briefing, said they have already asked the judiciary to have the unused chamber in the Pietermaritzburg High Court utilised for these cases.

Moreover, they would then propose to have other courts across the province, as some of the cases have jurisdictional elements and cannot be heard anywhere.

Gcweka said the mooted special courts are expected to start working as early as next year so that the backlog can be significantly eased.

Mkhwanazi admitted that some guns used to kill politicians are hired from rogue police officers and private security companies. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL Politics

"Now, when it comes to the issue of expediting all these court matters, we have been engaging with the current regional court president, who has taken over from Nzimande, to identify courts that will specialise in political matters in all four corners of the province.

"For instance, there must be a court on the South Coast; there must be a court somewhere on the side of Newcastle, there must be a court on the side of Zululand; there must be a court on the side of Pietermaritzburg," Gcweka said.

According to Cele, the trends show that the killings are intra-party and inter-party, and of late, coalition issues in hung municipalities are settled with the barrel of the gun.

"Moreover, seemingly, there are pockets of society where the barrel of the gun, and not through negotiations, decides coalitions.

"An investigation by the task team has revealed that current tensions within and between political parties (inter and intra) are due to the unstable coalition governance," Cele revealed.

He later added that the National Freedom Party (NFP) has become a victim because it is not able to replace its councillors and is kingmaker in some hung councils.

Cele also revealed that there are only three parties that are heavily affected by the scourge: the African National Congress (ANC), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and the NFP.

He also identified eThekwini and Zululand as the epicentres of the scourge that started showing its ugly head around 2011 and peaked this year.

"From the 52 murder cases of councillors, 31 ANC councillors were killed, while 14 were from the IFP.

"The NFP lost four of its councillors, while the EFF and ACDP lost two and one, respectively, while 52 councillors have been gunned down since 2011 to date," Cele said.

During the briefing, Cele and Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, the police commissioner in KZN, admitted that some of their police officers leased their State-issued guns to hitmen to commit political killings.

Mkhwanazi said some of these guns are hired from private security companies that are legally registered.

"So, we have had our own that we have arrested, South African Police Service (SAPS) members involved with the murder of councillors ... Some firearms are coming from security companies that are not necessarily reported as stolen, but they have been hired by criminals.

"So, it's all those different means that criminals are able to get the firearms that they use to commit these crimes," Mkhwanazi said.

To curb the abuse of State firearms, Mkhwanazi said they are looking at ways they could track SAPS firearms by fitting them with tracking devices.

Cele lambasted some political parties, saying they always shout at the police for doing nothing, yet the threats are coming from within.

He gave an example of a political party where he said its leader had security beefed up, not because he was facing external threats, but because the threats were coming from within the party.

Cele also could not deny the information that initial investigations regarding the attempted murder of Mphathiseni Manqele, a councillor of the NFP in Nongoma, showed that those who wanted him dead were within his own political party.

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