Political killings, such as the murder of former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) leader Sindiso Magaqa, could be avoided or investigated more efficiently if police officers in KwaZulu-Natal were more proactive, former premier Senzo Mchunu said on Wednesday.
"They must be proactive and prevent [incidents from happening]. We know police are humans too. Not all crime can be prevented. This is when they must investigate and bring criminals to justice. This will also send a strong message to criminals."
Speaking at the Moerane Commission, which is investigating the high number of political killings in the province since 2011, Mchunu said Magaqa was killed for attempting to fight corruption.
"That man was fighting corruption and he was killed for it. He was shot in the day, in a public place. Not at night, in an alley."
He questioned why police did not look for the car that Magaqa’s shooters were travelling in and why there was no co-ordination in an attempt to catch the shooters.
Magaqa died at the Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban on September 4 from gunshot wounds he had sustained in a suspected ambush in July.
It is alleged the motive for his killing involved a corrupt tender for the construction of a hall in Umzimkhulu, where he was a ward councillor.
During his testimony, Mchunu said there needed to be effective policing prior to incidents taking place.
He also chided police for their "poor reaction" after his personal bodyguard was killed.
He told the commission that, two years after Xolani Nkosi’s 2015 death, he had received minimal communication from police on the matter. This was partly why the public harboured a poor perception of the police, he said.
Following Nkosi’s death, Mchunu said he received very little information from authorities on investigations for weeks.
He said that he had learnt that a police unit in Pietermaritzburg was taking over the case. However, after some time passed, he realised "they were not going to brief me".
Mchunu then took things into his own hands, using his political clout to call up then minister of police Nathi Nhleko. He asked Nhleko to assign two senior officers to the case.
'Police suspected me of the murder'
He also hired a private investigator to work with the officers, the commission heard.
"For weeks, police had no information for me. But these three men were giving me feedback on clues and made progress on the first day of investigations."
A few days after the investigator and the two officers appointed by Nhleko began doing the work, Mchunu said he was surprised to hear that he was considered a suspect in the matter.
"They had discovered that the Pietermaritzburg police had suspected me of the murder."
However, Mchunu had been in Ladysmith at the time of the killing. Nkosi was killed in Empangeni.
Mchunu said that, after a few days of investigations, the trio were hot on the heels of potential suspects, even tracing Nkosi’s phone.
However, after the Hawks took over, the case quickly went cold.
"To this day, they have not updated us on his matter."
'They fumble around and forget about the murder'
Poor communication with affected parties, and what appeared as a lack of effort in following up on cases, were some of the other reasons which gave the public a poor perception of the police, he said.
"If the premier of the province of the time could not get help, how does the public expect to get any help?"
He said that police had to change those perceptions and become more organised.
"They do not decide from the beginning that this is a serious case. The docket moves from one hand to the next and they confuse themselves by suspecting those who could not have committed crimes. They fumble around and forget about the murder."