Long awaited Sindiso Magaqa murder trial begins on Monday

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The trial about the assassination of the former ANC Youth League Deputy Secretary-General – Sindiso Magaqa – is expected to get underway in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday. The trial has been beset by delays since 2019.

Magaqa was a member of the Umzimkhulu council’s executive committee when he and 2 other councillors were shot as they returned from a meeting in 2017. The attack was one of the high profile cases probed by the Moerane Commission into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal between 2011 and 2018.

Sbonelo Myeza, Mbulelo Mpofana, Mlungisi Ncalane and alleged hitman Sibusio Ncengwa will be in the dock in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to plead to charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder as well as the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. However, the indictment points out that they acted in concert with other conspirators unknown to the state.

The other suspected hitman – Jabulani Mdunge – died in a shootout with police during a foiled cash-in-transit heist. This was two months after gunmen armed with handguns and an AK476 assault rifle opened fire on the vehicles of Magaqa, and councillors Jabulile Msiya and Nonsikelelo Mafa in July 2017. Magaqa died from his wounds weeks later in hospital.

Moerane Commission
While the indictment does not mention a motive, a close friend of Magaqa – Thabiso Zulu – testified before the Moerane Commission that Magaqa was asking questions about delays with the construction of a multi-million rand Memorial Hall. In the run-up to the initial start date of the trial in the Scottburgh Circuit Court in 2019, gunmen opened fire on Zulu, wounding him.

The start of the trial in 2019 were initially delayed because the accused did not have legal representation. It was then remanded to April 2020 in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, but the COVID 19 pandemic broke out a month before the start of the trial.

Magaqa’s murder was one of the high profile cases which were probed by the Moerane Commission into political killings between 2011 and 2018, when the commission issued its report. While the commission was busy with its inquiry between 2016 and 2018, there were 40 political killings in the province. This is one of the first cases that the commission probed, that would be going to trial.

Witnesses at the commission had expressed their dismay that suspects are seldom arrested in connection with political killings, and even more rarely successfully prosecuted.

Fikile Mbalalu speaking at Magaqa’s memorial in 14 Sep 2017: