The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on political killings in KwaZulu-Natal has reported a significant decline in the crime since 2016, says Police Minister Bheki Cele.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the IMC in 2018 in the wake of an escalation in politically related incidents in the province.
The IMC was made up of the Ministers of State Security, Defense, Justice and Correctional Services and Police.
Its mandate was to ensure that perpetrators were brought to book, and to put an end to political violence in the province.
In July of the same year, an integrated multi-disciplinary Task Team consisting of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the National Prosecuting Agency supported by the State Security Agency and Correctional Services was established.
Cele said the IMC at a recent meeting concluded that it was abundantly clear that the work of the Task Team had and continues to heed the President’s call of not allowing KwaZulu-Natal to become killing field.
The team achieved an 83% conviction rate.
“Since 2018, the Task Team has investigated 226 dockets in which 251 arrests have been made on politically related cases. Forty-six accused have been found guilty of which 30 were convicted for murder,” said the Minister on Wednesday.
Out of 34 murder cases, nine life sentences were handed down, while 22 accused have each been handed down 10 to 50-year sentences.
“12 accused have been convicted for no more than ten years and the remainder, are going through the court processes.
“In addition, 69 case dockets unrelated to the Task Team’s mandate, were also considered for investigation by the Task Team. The reason for this is that these cases were somehow linked to politically related cases, either with similar suspects or through ballistics.”
Over and above the allocated and parallel politically related matters, the Task Team was conducting intelligence-driven operations targeting unlicensed firearms, which has resulted in 107 cases being investigated.
He said over 200 unlicensed firearms had since been confiscated and were now off the streets.
The Task Team has conducted firearms compliance inspections in over 25 security companies, municipal properties, a gun shop as well as a police station.
During these inspections, 2 360 firearms were seized and sent for ballistic testing.
A total of 34 cases were opened and 41 suspects were arrested and charged in terms of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 and according to Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) regulations.
Cele said it remains a concerning factor of the involvement of law enforcement agencies. In this regard, 16 SAPS officers have been arrested for their links in politically related crimes. The involvement of other law enforcement officials is also being closely looked into.
He said the IMC was happy with the progress made by the Task Team.
“This progress is as a result of the intergrated approach of the multi-disciplinary Task Team which has helped to improve the peace and stability in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This team remains in place and its capacity will be further strengthened through added resources,” he said.
“Currently the province is relatively calm in respect of political killings. We have seen a huge decrease in political murders.”
While 31 such murders were reported in 2016, this had plummeted to just four in 2021.
There were 20 killings in 2017, 12 in 2018 and 14 each in 2019 and 2020.
We are not in the clear yet, he said, adding that political intolerance through intimidation and extortion remains a cause for concern. This was especially as the country approached the 27 October local government elections.
“Interventions are in place to deal with this, proactively and reactively,” said the Minister.