The Endumeni Municipality in Dundee has approved a 24-hour protection service for its councillors, following widespread death threats.
The threats come three weeks after councillor Peter Nxele was gunned down at his home in Dundee on May 13. More councillors reported suspicions of either being followed or receiving death threats.
A source within the municipality told The Witness last night that the volatile situation in the area has reached unprecedented levels.
On May 19, during an Exco meeting, councillors demanded protection from the council because they could no longer do their work “without looking over their shoulders”.
The source, a member of the majority party in the municipality, the IFP, said the situation has been fuelled by infighting among IFP members. He said two factors are exacerbating this: the impending appointment of the Umzinyathi District Municipality manager and the upcoming by-election to replace Nxele.
“Nxele died for a reason. He was ferocious and had the tendency of walking out from his party’s meetings and that created enemies within the rank and file.”
Another source confirmed that there is infighting and that the reasons are “deep-seated”.
“Other parties stand no chance in the by-election, so it’s IFP all the way,” she said.
The source said the bodyguards will remain in place to protect the councillors until the by-election on July 16. The situation will be re-assessed to determine whether further protection is needed.
Endumeni has 12 councillors, half of whom are IFP, while the ANC has four and the DA has two.
Endumeni acting municipal manager Bart Maltman confirmed that councillors have received protection in the form of bodyguards, but declined to comment further.
Nxele was vocal last year following the murder of trade unionist and activist Grishen Bujram, who was gunned down on June 15 last year. Death threats engulfed the area when local Member of the KZN Parliament Mzwakhe Sithebe also revealed he had received a death threat. Sithebe chairs the provincial portfolio committee on safety and security.
Sithebe had apparently made noises about the slow investigation of the Bujram murder. He was soon joined by Nxele, who allegedly demanded to know what was the “difference between the murder of David Rattray and that of Mr Bujram and school teacher Ndoda Mhlungu”. Mhlungu’s body was found near the Sibongile dumping site in May 2007.