Durban – A manager at the Newcastle Mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba’s mayoral office, said the whereabouts of the senior official were unknown after police allegedly arrested him on Friday afternoon.
Sibonelo Mtshali said they were not aware Mahlaba had been arrested as the police announced on Friday, but understood him to be taken in for questioning at a location unknown to them and his lawyer.
Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Reneilwe Serero had confirmed on Friday that a senior official in the municipality had been arrested by members of the provincial inter-ministerial task team into political killings.
She would not name Mahlaba directly, but referred to him as a "senior official" as he had yet to appear before a court of law, she said.
“Our understanding is that he was taken in for questioning,” Mtshali insisted.
When asked where Mahlaba was, Mtshali said a team led by his unnamed attorney were trying to track down the whereabouts of the mayor.
“That is why it is very strange that the police would confirm he was taken in for arrest. They ought to confirm where he has been taken in (to be charged). When a person has been arrested, you would expect that the person has been charged by now, but the thing is that we do not even know where he is,” he said.
Mtshali said they could not confirm that Mahlaba had been arrested as they were told he was in for questioning.
“That is why we don’t even know his whereabouts. Once we get all those details, we will be in a better position to confirm why he was taken in and these are the reasons he was taken in for,” said Mtshali.
“As things stand, his attorney is trying to establish his whereabouts and the reasons behind him being taken in (for questioning),” he said.
Responding to this, Serero said SAPS, the task team and the ministry would not account to the suspect’s office for the work done by the police.
"According to us, he was taken in and he will appear in court on Monday. Why would you appear in court if you are not arrested?" said Serero.
She said the mayor had a right to legal representation and that his lawyer had been in touch with the police.
Mahlaba’s arrest comes days after Harry Gwala District Mayor Mluleki Ndobe was arrested in connection with the murder of former ANCYL secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.
Ndobe appeared in court earlier this week.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal expressed shock at Mahlaba’s detention by the police on Friday.