The sentencing of a convicted murderer and political hitman has been postponed at the Esikhaleni Regional Court, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.  The state says it was ready to proceed with sentencing arguments against Fisokuhle Ntuli on Tuesday.

But Ntuli brought an application for the probation officer and a social worker to compile reports on his personal circumstances, moving sentencing arguments to December. Ntuli was found guilty of the murder of African National Congress councillor Thami Nyembe in 2016.

He is also linked to 10 other cases. Ntuli’s imminent sentencing comes as political parties mourn two candidates who were murdered in less than a week.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) candidate for ward 20 in the Msunduzi municipality, Thulani Shangase,  was shot dead in the KwaCaluza area outside Pietermaritzburg on Sunday while the African National Congress’ candidate for ward 101 in the eThekwini Municipality, Siyabonga Mkhize, died in a hail of bullets on Friday.

EFF visited Thulani Shangase’s family yesterday:

It is believed the hitman also killed potential witnesses who had information about Nyembe’s murder in 2016. Ntuli is also said to be linked to the killing of the late Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, Senzo Meyiwa.

He was eventually arrested in 2018 for Nyembe’s murder. Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo says Ntuli has been on a killing mission in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“He was convicted on six counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, four counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. For us, as South African Police Services we really appreciate the work of the NPA in ensuring the conviction of the accused. For us, it is a huge milestone, it couldn’t have come at a better time particularly in light of what is happening around the country with the so-called incidents of political killings, taxi violence, gang violence taking place. This conviction for us is going to send a very clear message to potential anarchists out there of the consequences of their actions, we welcome the conviction.”

Prosecution aims for a heavy sentence

The prosecuting team led by Advocate Cyril Selepe is calling for a heavy sentence. He says they had credible witnesses who risked their lives to offer critical testimony.

“If you have been following the case, some of the people who were killed in this matter were potential witnesses in this matter. The Zulu brothers, all of them really were willing to come forward to the police and give the information about the killing of Mr Nyembe who was a ward councillor, the fourth deceased I think Mr Zungu, he too was a potential witness in the case. The police were looking for him based on the information that they had received that he got and this. The accused realised that these people were about to make statements and he decided to kill them, that is why I am saying even the witnesses  who came forward here were risking their lives. Based on that if you know that you are facing an accused who is killing witnesses, definitely, you must realise that you are putting yourself in danger but they were brave those witnesses who came forward that is why I want to say thank you to them.”

Work done by Political Task Team 

Meanwhile, Naidoo says that the work of the political task team responsible for investigating politically related killings is bearing fruit.

“Since the establishment of the Political Task Team in KwaZulu-Natal in 2018, I think you all will recall the level of political violence during that time, the number of people that were being killed in the province I think there was never a week that had passed there wasn’t at least three or two killings in a week in KwaZulu-Natal, but since the establishment of this task team, we secured the arrest of over 280 suspects in connection with those killings around 2018. What is very important is the work done by the KwaZulu-Natal Political Task Team which has helped significantly to reduce the number of attacks and killings as far as political violence is concerned.”

The matter has been adjourned to 9 December for sentencing.