Mpumalanga’s MEC for culture, sports and recreation, Vusi Shongwe, says his department’s head of communication and spokesperson was killed by the same “scavengers” who assassinated Mbombela’s speaker last year.
Samuel “Sammy” Mpatlanyane (45) was shot to death by unknown gunmen in his house in Stonehenge, Nelspruit, last Friday.
The murder carries eerie echoes of that of speaker Jimmy Mohlala, who was shot and killed in front of his son outside his house in KaNyamazane on January 4 last year.
Speaking after a memorial service for Mpatlanyane in Nelspruit on Tuesday, an emotional Shongwe accused the same assassins of killing Mpatlanyane.
“These scavengers who killed Sammy are the same people who robbed Jimmy from the opportunity to see the World Cup on our shores. We need to expose these people before they make this province mourn again,” said Shongwe.
“They did this to Jimmy and now they think they will get away with it again. It is about time they were stopped,” he said.
Mbombela Local Municipality mayor Lassy Chiwayo, who is also rumoured to be on the killers’ “hit list”, echoed Shongwe’s sentiments.
“Jimmy and Sammy have suffered the worst type of humiliation because they were slaughtered like beasts. It looks like a pattern because they were both killed in January. How long will the perpetrators do this, and why do we keep quiet and accept it when we can do something about it?” asked Chiwayo.
A personal friend of Mpatlanyane, King Kunene, said people who have information about the murders needed to come forward with it.
“I am sure that some people who were present just now in that service have information about the killers. They need to come out and expose them,” he said.
The police have confirmed that Mpatlanyane was shot in his bed, but his body was found on the balcony leading from his bedroom on the second storey of the house. There was no sign of forced entry into the house.
“Mpatlanyane was found dead with one bullet wound to his chest and another through his ribcage. The headboard of the bed on which he had been sleeping was riddled with bullets,” said Mpumalanga police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi on Friday.
He added that Mpatlanyane was killed with a gun stolen from a policeman’s house in Nelsville in late December.
Investigating officer Inspector Sonnyboy Moloko refused to comment on the murder investigation on Wednesday.
Mohlala’s death last year came a week before he was due to testify in the disciplinary hearing of former municipal manager Jacob Dladla, who had been accused of financial mismanagement of the Mbombela World Cup Stadium project. Dladla has since resigned.
Despite a R100 000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the killers, no one has been caught.
The case was taken over officially by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, the Hawks, last week.
Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said claims that high-profile figures may be involved in Mohlala’s murder would not be investigated without concrete evidence.
“What would be the basis for interviewing those people who are implicated without evidence?” said Zondi.
“There is no concrete evidence against anyone in this case, and as a result it is more difficult to make headway.”
Mphatlanyane was buried yesterday (Thursday) morning after a funeral service that was held at the Mbombela Civic Centre.
The MEC for the department, Vusi Shongwe, expressed shock at the news of Mpatlanyane’s death.
He said all his staff members were dismayed and hoped that the police would soon arrest those involved in Mpatlanyane’s killing.
“Mpatlanyane was a dedicated and seasoned spokesman who worked tirelessly to improve the communication channels between the government and the media,” Shongwe said.
Mpatlanyane’s death comes just weeks after he returned from a two-month educational sabbatical in Germany, where he was gaining knowledge in preparation for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“As we mourn his death, we take solace in the fact that Mpatlanyane was a person who was passionate about education, knowledge and development,” Shongwe said.