Enzenzeleni community member's demands answers on their leader's killers

There is one question on people’s lips and that is whether an activist Vusi Mlaba was killed to silence him. This speculation comes after ongoing rivalry between Mlaba and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Mlaba was a husband, father and community leader who fought against corruption and poor service delivery specifically in his hometown of Enzenzeleni Warden in the Free State. For years, the community experienced constant blocked toilets, lack of electricity, contaminated water and sometimes they would go for days without water. Mlaba battled for his community to have access to better services and resources.

Sam Radebe, National Chairperson of the Freedom of Expression Network (FXN) is of the opinion that Mlaba’s desire to cease corruption within the local municipal structures might have made him a target. “I have known Vusi Mlaba for so many years. He played an important role in his community of Enzenzeleni, Warden trying to fight corruption.

He used to stand up for people who were promised Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses but didn’t receive them due to corrupt officials in the system. There is a high possibility that his leadership to expose poor service delivery and corruption made him a target. If we put pieces together there are suspicions but we cannot give details because the matter is still under investigation,” Radebe said.

In 2014, Mlaba was arrested and spend three months in a local police holding cell for protesting. Shockingly he was the only arrested person amongst hundreds of people who were also part of the protest. Mlaba was quick to point out that Zwane was responsible for this arrest. He believed it was an act of revenge for speaking against Zwane in local community forums.

There are speculations that Mlaba was offered a bribe of R70,000 by Zwane three months before he was shot dead on 29 April 2016. It is alleged that he was killed to silence him after he refused to take the bribe. He was shot 12 times and this incident inflicted fear to the community of Enzenzeleni Warden. The Freedom of Expression Law Clinic is assisting the community on the follow up of the investigation and it helps them ease the pain and informed about the case.

Sheniece Linderboom, Head of Law Clinic said “We are assisting in terms of following up on the case and ensuring Vusi Mlaba family gets closure. I have been informed that members of the community living in fear after this incident and as a result many people who might have information are reluctant to share it.”

January 20 2017 By FXI free expression, impunity, censorship

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