South Africa

South Africa

ANC KZN: Sindiso Magaqa’s death, another worrying statistic in a troubled province

ANC KZN: Sindiso Magaqa’s death, another worrying statistic in a troubled province

Mourners, politicians and protesters mingled at the home of Sindiso Magaqa, a young politician who defied death in a hail of bullets, recovered, only to die suddenly two months later of what seemed like heart failure. If a certain presidential contender has her way, he wouldn’t be just another on the long list of apparent assassinations to take place in KwaZulu-Natal: he’d be the last. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.

By the turn-off on the R56, about 20 kilometres from Umzimkhulu on an upward slope in the road that leads towards Kokstad, about 60 kilometres further on, there is a car wash flanked by a red container tuck shop, as well as a dark blue-painted general dealer of the type you find in the rural areas in these parts.

If you turn right, a narrow but smoothly tarred speed-humped road runs into Ibisi, a village with small brick homes in neat yards. There is even a very well-equipped outdoor gym, newly-fenced. As villages here go, this one is fairly kempt.

Just up the road from this gym is the home of Sindiso Magaqa, most recently ANC councillor and Exco member in the Umzimkhulu municipality. He’s perhaps better remembered as the ANC Youth League secretary-general, elected with Julius Malema as president in 2012. Unlike Malema, he was suspended from the league but eventually returned to the ANC; he was 34 at the time of his death.

Malema, now leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters and one of the first to react to Magaqa’s death, said he would attend his funeral, expected to take place next weekend.

Survivor Nontiselelo Mafa (wearing the green hat, with the blue bandage around her leg) talks to fellow mourners at the Magaqa home. She was shot along with Magaqa two months ago.

Survivor Nontiselelo Mafa (wearing the green hat, with the blue bandage around her leg) talks to fellow mourners at the Magaqa home. She was shot along with Magaqa two months ago.

For all the condolences that poured in for Magaqa from a full spectrum of colleagues, it’s hard to establish exactly who it was that wanted him dead. The divisions here in the local politics – the one thing the locals readily admit to – don’t necessarily fit neatly into the current national race between President Jacob Zuma’s state capturists versus Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s corruption busters, although Magaqa is said to have been putting his foot down on the million-rand graft that’s alleged to be going on in the council.

You speak the truth here, you will die,” a family member said by way of explanation, but gave no details.

Not even EFF councillor and cousin, Vuyokazi Magaqa, wanted to venture into the politics. “I can’t speak for what’s happening in the ANC,” he said, and like everyone else, he pointed this reporter to someone else for an explanation.

So, whatever the exact reason or tender, at that car wash by the turnoff in this village cradled by softly-sloping bare mountainsides, were two guys with big guns waiting to ambush Magaqa and pump a hail of bullets into the car.

Magaqa kept it together, according to colleague Nontsikelelo Mafa, who was in the vehicle with him and still has to walk with crutches for the injuries on her hip and leg. Her eyes and cheeks quiver when she recalls the shooting, but there are no tears.

She said Magaqa realised they were about to be shot, and told them to sit still and not get out of the car.

Mourners leave the Sindiso Magaqa home in Ibisi village in kwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

Mourners leave the Sindiso Magaqa home in Ibisi village in kwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

The black Mercedes M-class is still parked behind Magaqa’s home, but under the grey cover on the driver’s side (where the front window is shattered) there are well over two dozen bullet holes marked and numbered with green police stickers. On the passenger side there are roughly nine holes, some piercing the windows too. These were aimed to kill.

Perhaps his presence of mind saved the occupants of that car, although Magaqa, whose injuries were all below the waist, apparently lost a lot of blood and was transferred to a hospital in Durban.

There, he was under heavy guard and stayed for a month to recover. Police are yet to make arrests but it seems one of the two wanted men could have been killed in a shootout between police and a suspected cash-in-transit heist gang in Durban recently, while the other was wounded and in hospital.

Nobody from Magaqa’s local ANC branch went to visit him in hospital, a family member said with a somewhat suspicious look, although Umzimkhulu deputy mayor Sindi Nkala told TimesLive that security at the hospital was so tight as to exclude even her.

The branch leaders did come to the home on Tuesday to pay their respects, though.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, however, visited the hospital more than once with a get-well-soon message.

It wasn’t strange to see Dlamini-Zuma at his home among the mourners where she, along with KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, spent about two hours attending a prayer service in the small white marquee erected in the front yard of the home.

Earlier they had to help quell some tensions of local ANC members marching in front of the house, carrying placards accusing one of the local leaders of being Magaqa’s murderer. After the prayer service and a small doorstop with the media, the two went inside the home to speak to close family members.

Dlamini-Zuma, who was much less aloof than she’d been in recent times on her campaign trail, said she hoped Magaqa’s death was the catharsis that “will finally bring an end to this carnage that we see” – referring to a spate of politically motivated murders in the province, and especially the Harry Gwala region, which is also her home region.

In April, regional deputy secretary and uMzimkhulu speaker Khaya Thobela was gunned down in front of his home, dying in hospital three days later, with two more apparently politically motivated killings in the two months that followed.

Zikalala on Tuesday called these murders an “embarrassment” to the province.

Dlamini-Zuma said:

We hope as communities, religious leaders, political parties – the ANC – we can take a decision individually and collectively that this carnage must stop, and that we must do what he [Magaqa] did best, to serve the people of this country.”

Dlamini-Zuma said there would be meetings with the provincial and the regional leadership of the ANC to follow up on complaints from branches, and it was a “given” that police should do their work.

If there are more murders unresolved, people will have the courage to say ‘I will get away with it’,” she said.

Family spokesperson, his uncle Vuma Magaqa, said his nephew was fully recovered and out of hospital for a couple of weeks – and even back on his job in council – when he suffered the setback on Friday. “He was vomiting, and he was unwell, and on Monday he died of heart failure,” Vuma Magaqa said.

A post-mortem will take place soon, but another family member said he hoped the family could involve private investigators as he didn’t trust the police, who on Tuesday also promised to investigate the poisoning claim.

Meanwhile, the political squabbling ahead of Magaqa’s funeral has started. The Congress of South African Students in the Greater Johannesburg Region has issued a press release calling Magaqa “one of the finest” and current ANC Youth League president Collen Maine “the most useless” of league presidents. Cosas warned they would not listen to Maine should he address the memorial service, adding the comrades should not use his funeral “as an opportunity to squabble”.

Even in Magaqa’s death there will apparently be little peace, as it’s already triggered more recriminations at a time when the ANC least needs these. DM

Photo: Then newly suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema (L) gestures as his secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa looks on during a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg, November 16, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe SibekoPhoto: Then newly suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema (L) gestures as his secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa looks on during a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg, November 16, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Main Photo: Aiming to kill, some of the bullet holes – marked and numbered with green police stickers – that pierced the car in which Sindiso Magaqa was travelling. Photos: Carien Du Plessis

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