KZN political killings: Witness intimidation an 'enormous challenge'

Bheki Cele also announced that Lucky Mkhwanazi would be new acting provincial police commissioner of KZN

KZN political killings: Witness intimidation part of 'enormous challenges' encountered in probe

"Enormous challenges" have been encountered in the investigation of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, according to the inter-ministerial committee probing the latest incidents of violence in the province.

The inter-ministerial committee of ministers in the security cluster was set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 14, after the murder of ANC convenor in the Moses Mabhida region, Musawenkosi Mchunu.

Mchunu was shot dead on May 11.

The ministerial task team comprises the departments of justice, police, state security and defence.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula revealed at a media briefing on Monday that, in their interaction with the multi-disciplinary team set up in 2016 to investigate the killings, it became "clear" that there were challenges in the process.

"In our interaction it has become clear that there have been enormous challenges, hence the inability to conclude some of the cases," she said.

She said, at times, witnesses to political killings were reluctant to come forward.

"[In] some instances, where witnesses have come forward, they then change their statements later or they are intimidated [into] withdrawing those statements," said Mapisa-Nqakula.

She said they could not just conclude that the killings were politically motivated until the investigations were concluded.

Mapisa-Nqakula added that it was taking longer to conclude cases because it was hard to find credible witnesses for successful prosecution.

The ministerial task team had a meeting at the SAPS' provincial headquarters in Durban on Monday to discuss ways to curb the killings in KZN.

Police minister Bheki Cele said a preliminary report into their findings would be shared with the public once it has been handed to Ramaphosa.

Cele also announced that General Lucky Mkhwanazi would be the new acting provincial police commissioner of KZN.

"He was the head of the special task force and he also acted as national police commissioner of the SAPS," he said.

Cele said the provincial commissioner would be appointed once the matter of suspended KZN commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni had been sorted.

Ngobeni has been suspended for almost two years over allegations that she had a "cosy relationship" with controversial Durban businessman Thoshan Panday.

"There is still the matter of the suspended provincial commissioner (Ngobeni). Until that matter has been finalised, it cannot be legal to employ anybody else. That's why Mkhwanazi will be acting," he said.

Cele added that the problems in KZN started a long time ago but said they would focus on the killings that took place from 2011 until now.

Cele also said the operational details of the ministerial task team could not be revealed until they brief Ramaphosa.

Premier Willies Mchunu said they were waiting for a report from Moerane Commission chair, advocate Marumo Moerane.

Mchunu established the commission in October 2016, amid a high number of political killings in the province. Its role was to investigate political killings in the province since 2011.

"The commission had asked for an extension until the end of May in order to finalise their report," said Mchunu.

He said the report would also be handed to Ramaphosa.