Onlookers shocked by killing at court
It was always going to be a tense situation. But nothing could have prepared police officers, court officials and journalists for what was to follow – the gunning down in cold blood of an IFP member in broad daylight in front of a crowd of hundreds of people at the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
The killing has sent shock waves across the province and spurred calls for military intervention.
I had just finished interviewing eThekwini National Freedom Party (NFP) councillor Mzonjani Zulu after court proceedings when he pulled out a gun and fired two shots at Siya Dlamini, killing him.
Dlamini, 29, from the volatile KwaMashu Hostel, had been carrying a rusty spear.
Dlamini was hit in the head and chest and died in front us.
There was chaos as people dived and ran for cover. But Zulu, a member of his party’s national working committee, calmly walked into the court immediately afterwards and police arrested him.
This incident has triggered fears that the days of political violence that tore the province apart in the mid-1980s and early 1990s are back. The incident has been condemned by political parties in the province.
The two men were at court to attend the first appearance of NFP councillor Mgezeni Gwala, his son Bonginhlanhla, and a friend, Sibusiso Ncengwa. The trio handed themselves over to KwaMashu police on Friday and were charged with murder following a shooting that claimed the life of Cebile Shezi, an IFP supporter, at the hostel two weeks ago.
They also face a charge relating to the attempted murder of another IFP supporter, Lungile, whose surname could not be confirmed.
Also facing the same charges is Mjabulelwa Gwala, another of Gwala’s sons, who was arrested earlier in the week. He will appear in court on Friday.
Monday’s shooting happened after IFP members blocked the court, preventing NFP members from leaving after the hearing they attended.
Zulu had told journalists his party was a peace-loving organisation and that it was “a victim of IFP hatred”.
Throughout the morning there had been exchanges of insults between members of the parties. Police had to separate the two groups by closing the court gate as the IFP members were outside the premises while the NFP group were inside.
Zulu was inside the courtroom before the shooting, but it was not clear whether he had the gun with him at the time.
Political analyst Protas Madlala said the fact that this had happened in the presence of police and near a court meant a “complete disrespect for the law and police”.
“This also shows the level of political intolerance and failure by police intelligence,” he added.
This had gone beyond the question of the control of political leaders, he said. “One can only hope this does not escalate into full-blown political violence… the military must step in to restore order,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas said she hoped that this type of open confrontation would not escalate. She blamed the police for allowing the situation to get out of control.
“Police should have taken the spear from this man immediately after he was spotted carrying it. How did they allow people to carry dangerous weapons in public?
“I wonder where (Zulu) kept the gun when he was inside the courtroom?” said De Haas.
She said she had calculated that about 40 murders relating to political violence in the province had occurred since 2010.
IFP leaders pleaded for calm among their members.
Reacting to the shooting of Dlamini, the IFP caucus leader at eThekwini, Mduduzi Nkosi, said the murder was a sign that the NFP was at war with IFP members.
“We are a peace-loving organisation, but unfortunately our members will not sit and relax while they are under attack,” said Nkosi.
During the court proceedings, prosecutor Anusha Govender asked magistrate ZCB Nkosi to postpone the accuseds’ bail application for seven days. She said this would allow police to continue with their investigation. She said police were still looking for Lungile, who had absconded from hospital as she feared that NFP people would attack her.
The proceedings are to continue on Wednesday.