An eye-witness to the execution-style killing of Raymond Mhlaba council speaker Thozama Njobe told shocked mourners at her funeral that the loan gunman had pumped a total of 16 shots into Njobe from close range.
Mandla Makeleni, the finance portfolio committee head at the Raymond Mhlaba Municipality, was seated alongside Njobe when she was attacked.
He spoke for the first time in public about the gruesome killing of the 46-year-old mother of three who was known for her anti-corruption stance.
The two were leaving a meeting in Fort Beaufort when the shooting occurred just before midnight on July 18.
An emotional Makeleni told hundreds of mourners who packed the Fort Beaufort’s Zwelitsha Stadium, that the councillors would not be moved by anyone seeking to terrify or intimidate them.
Makeleni nevertheless weighed in against factionalism at the council.
“When factional ideas manifest within council and we allow ourselves to be captured by corrupt individuals – that is a challenge we will fight till death,” said Makeleni, appealing for unity in the council.
Njobe was elected council speaker last August following the amalgamation of Nkonkobe and Nxuba municipalities.
Makeleni described Njobe as a feisty and energetic leader who stood against all odds.
“Some people would have quit a long time ago with the pressure and challenges she faced.
“She believed that life was too short to hold grudges. She loved her people. She was popular in all 21 wards in Raymond Mhlaba and attended all their branch meetings. She also visited every region in the province,” Makeleni said.
Another speaker at the funeral, cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa, said factional battles within the council were behind the killing of Njobe.
“Factional battles must stop because they are killing the ANC. We will continue condemning corruption, and I must say to the person or people who are behind this killing, you can’t silence us with bullets,” said Xasa.
Xasa, a national executive committee member of the ANC, warned corrupt leaders, saying “come the December [ANC] elective conference, we will untangle this party of OR Tambo from corrupt leaders. We will do it for Thozama Njobe and millions of our poor people.”
“We can’t steal from the poor and think that they are going to be quiet. You must know that a dead person is more powerful than when they were alive. The death of Thozama will haunt you forever,” Xasa said.
The outspoken critic of President Jacob Zuma added: “The reports that NEC members who supported the motion of no confidence against the president were 18 are not true, we were more than 18.”
The move – spearheaded by former tourism minister and ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom – failed due to lack of support. He was axed as minister by Zuma soon after.
“We are not dividing the party, we are fixing it. Arrogant leaders are unacceptable and we must always be true servants of the people.”
Njobe was buried on Saturday at Fort Beaufort cemetery following a day of mourning, tears and tributes.
ANC heavyweights who attended Njobe’s funeral include former ANC national treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane, finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo, legislature speaker Noxolo Kiviet, Buffalo City Metro speaker Alfred Mtsi, and former Fifa referee Ace Ncobo.
Speaking to the Dispatch on the sidelines of the funeral service, Phosa said the killing was unacceptable.
“It is really shocking that someone who is a councillor could die in that way because of political intolerance.
“We saw this happening in KwaZulu-Natal and now it is coming to the Eastern Cape. It is unacceptable,” said Phosa. — email@example.com