Durban – The increase in the number of political killings in Estcourt, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, has seen scores of fearful councillors flooding the administration with requests for bodyguards.
About five IFP councillors at Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality put in requests for protection in the past week, with many more already waiting for their threat assessment levels to be conducted to find out whether they qualified.
A significant number of ward councillors have already received protection, paid for by the municipality.
Politicians were nervous following the murder of IFP councillor Mthandeni Majola weeks ago, and the assassination attempts on Mbuzeni Mkhize and Al Jama-ah Party councillor Kabelo Nthekiso recently.
Nthekiso, 22, was confronted by unknown gunmen while on his way to a special council meeting in Wembezi. On his Facebook page he posted, “I wish to confirm that I am 100% fine and safe following the shooting in the morning.”
He also posted a picture of his car that had three bullet holes in the windscreen.
The demand for bodyguards was in conflict with the municipality’s attempts to cut costs.
The municipality, placed under administration early this year, recently announced that it planned to cut bodyguards that were already in place by the end of the month due to financial constrains.
“Initially, all these councillors had bodyguards. They had two each and there was a complaint and that was reduced to one. The councillors that still have security have been given a month’s notice. On November 1, the bodyguards will be withdrawn.
“The councillors are not in favour of this, but the administrator has told them that the council is in financial difficulty,” said the source in the municipality,who refused to be named.
The IFP’s caucus leader Sphiwe Khumalo said it was unfortunate that bodyguards were being taken away at a time when the councillors needed protection.
“I know of five requests for bodyguards from IFP members, the situation is not good in this area and the councillors are worried,” he said.
Council speaker Albert Mdakane described the situation as abnormal. “Councillors are frightened. There are others who have applied for protection, but are waiting for an assessment.”
Municipal manager Patrick Mkhize said councillors were justifiably nervous.
Asked if there had been a spike in requests for bodyguards, Mkhize said: “Everyone wants bodyguards, even officials. I want bodyguards but the reality is that no municipality can afford that.”
He said the proposal was to eliminate protection as a routine exercise to ensure that there was still a genuine need for bodyguards.