Durban mayor's spokesman 'disappears' from City Hall after Hawks probe
The team, comprising members of units in the security cluster, was set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa in June 2018 to investigate political killings in the province.
It is headed by Police Minister Bheki Cele, whose spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, confirmed that Mthunzi Gumede, the mayor’s spokesperson, was questioned by the team.
She would not say why or when he was questioned.
However, the has learnt that Gumede, who was not arrested, has been away from work and had his cellphone confiscated by the task team.
Internal sources said he has since “disappeared” from city hall and that his disappearance followed his encounter with the team.
“I don’t know when exactly this happened, but some of us heard recently that Mthunzi’s phone has been confiscated by the Hawks.
"We have not seen him for days now, and this is definitely in connection with some high-profile investigation.
"Everything is secretive about his encounter with the Hawks and his disappearance from the office,” said an employee who was not permitted to speak to the media.
Asked to either confirm or deny he was questioned about the murder of uMlazi Ward 88 councillor Sibusiso Maphumulo, Gumede referred the to the Hawks, saying that he was not their spokesperson.
Maphumulo, 32, was shot and killed on November 18.
Gumede confirmed yesterday that his phone was confiscated by the Hawks.
Asked why, he said: “I can’t speak on why the phone was taken as this involves an investigation.
"The Hawks or the police are best suited to comment on that.”
City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said: “We are not aware of his phone being confiscated by the Hawks.
"The mayor continues to get all communications support and there is absolutely no gap in this regard.”
Serero said: “At some stage the task team questioned Gumede. As to the confiscation of his cellphone, I cannot deny nor confirm that.”
About two weeks ago the Sunday Tribune reported that the mayor’s political adviser, Mlungisi Ntombela, came under intense scrutiny from the Hawks.
Ntombela has since obtained an interim interdict preventing Hawks officers from harassing or intimidating him.
In papers filed in the Durban High Court, Ntombela reportedly claimed that the Hawks tried to coerce him into implicating Gumede as having had a hand in Maphumulo’s murder.
Last week the mayor said in a statement that people were using “dirty tricks” aimed at removing her from the mayor’s office and the position of ANC eThekwini chairperson.
KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said she was following up on issues of concern relating to alleged actions of the interministerial task team.
“A lawyer for some of those arrested has confirmed allegations of abuse during the questioning of suspects.
"If these allegations are correct, the matter is serious, because if people who make sworn statements do so after being abused their evidence will not stand up in court,” she said.