Two of Mpumalanga’s “political widows” who feel let down by the decision of the minister of police to exclude the killing of their husbands from the investigation into political killings in the country, now want a new probe into the political killings in Mpumalanga.
The widows of two of prominent Mpumalanga personalities who were killed in what was dubbed the January political killings, Jimmy Mohlala and Sammy Mpatlanyane said their hopes were raised when the minister of police, Nathi Nhleko, announced an investigation would be instituted into political killings.
Mohlala’s widow, Bony, who was also arrested as a suspect in her husband’s murder, questioned why the investigation excluded the Mpumalanga killings.
“Why is it only KwaZulu-Natal, why not this side (Mpumalanga)? They know that the perpetrators are still roaming the streets. I would have been happy to find closure, because the police once accused me of killing my husband, so I’d be pleased if the perpetrators can be found and the investigation to continue,” said Bonny.
She said that the last time she heard from the police investigating her husband’s murder since the departure of national commissioner of police, Bheki Cele, was soon after the appointment of his successor, Riah Phiyega in 2012, and never heard from the police ever since.
In January 2011, then national commissioner of police, Cele, appointed a team of twelve investigators to investigate what became known as “January Murders”, after Mohlala and Mpatlanyane were killed on the 4th and 8th January in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Mohlala was the Speaker at the Mbombela local municipality and he blew the whistle into the corruption related to the awarding of the contract for the construction of the Mbombela stadium which was the venue of the FIFA 2010 World Cup held for the first time on the African continent.
Mpatlanyane was killed after he questioned the payment made to Mbongeni Ngema’s “Lion of the East” musical which was meant to honour ANC activist, Gert Sibande who helped exposed the slavery conditions of farm workers in the potato fields of Bethal in 1947.
When another prominent activist, the chief whip for Ehlanzeni district municipality was killed on the 5th January 2011, political parties such as the South African Communist Party and the ANC Youth League put pressure on the authorities to investigate the killings.
On the 25th January 2011, Cele announced the appointment of 12 investigators to investigate what became known as the January political killings in Mpumalanga province.
“I’ve noted that every January from three years ago, people are being murdered. I’ve tasked 12 investigators from all the provinces to investigate the matter. Anyone who has information about any of the murders in the province must contact the nearest police station,” said Cele at the time.
Cele was, however, fired from his post before the report into the killings could be made public. His successors have also refused to make the report public.
Mpatlanyane’s widow, Pinky, also said she had hoped the new investigation would bring closure, however, she was disappointed when she heard that the investigation would not include the Mpumalanga killings.
“When I heard of the new investigation, I had hope that government was indeed concerned of our grief and pain, but when I’m surprised that the investigation will leave out the Mpumalanga political killings, I’m hurt and it leaves one with many questions as to why is Mpumalanga so untouchable? Why is the governing organisation silence on this January 8 project?,” said Mpatlanyane.
The so-called “January 8 project” was revealed by Mpumalanga premier, David Mabuza in February this year, shortly after he had disclosed that he had been poisoned.
He promised to, one day, reveal all the privileged information that he has to “rest my case”. He said that the day was drawing closer and closer.
“I was labeled a killer. The project was labeled January 8. You will know that project one day. Remember the name Project January 8, because all these people that they say I’ve murdered – I’ve killed – they should all of them die in January – if possible they must die on the 8th of January,” said Mabuza at the time.
Indeed, Sammy Mpatlanyane, an ANC activist, was the head of communication at the department of culture, sports and recreation when he was killed at his home on 8 January 2010.
The gun that was used in his killing belonged to a policeman. Those who were arrested for his killing, all foreign nationals, were discharged after one of them, was declared unfit to stand trial allegedly after he was assaulted by the police.
Like Bonny, Pinky was also accused by some Mpumalanga authorities of being behind his husband’s killing.
“I’m puzzled as to why this investigation is selective. Perhaps (it’s) because they all know exactly what had transpired in 2010? Senior Executives tried to cover up their ugly monstrous acts, spreading all malicious and distorted lies trying to mislead communities saying it’s the wife. Why would l kill my husband and father of my children in our matrimonial bedroom and in the presence of our children?” she said.
Pinky appealed for the release of the report into the Mpumapalanga political killings.
“They should understand that we live with open wounds. My request is for Commissioner to release the Bheki Cele’s report at least to the families. I’d be pleased if the Mpumalanga government would find it in their heart and conscience to request that report to be made public so that many unanswered questions can find clinical answers,” she said.
The spokesperson for the minister of police, Musa Zondi, confirmed that the Mpumalanga political killings will not be entertained in the investigation that minister Nhleko announced.
“It (the investigation) will deal with killings reported recently especially with the upcoming local government elections,” he said in response to a media enquiry.
Zondi also poured cold water on the idea that the ministry would make any effort to release the Bheki Cele investigation report.
“Surely that is a different matter altogether. That is not the focus for this task team,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mpatlanyane has been withdrawn from premier Mabuza’s team after Mabuza fell ill in August 2015, allegedly as a result of poisoning during his birthday celebration at Bushbuckridge.
Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, failed to honour a promise for an interview with the premier on the poisoning incident and the withdrawal of Mpatlanyane from working with the Premier.