South Africa

Thabiso Zulu, friend of slain youth league leader Sindiso Magaqa, should get state protection, court rules

Thabiso Zulu, friend of slain youth league leader Sindiso Magaqa, should get state protection, court rules

The high court in Pretoria has ordered that the justice minister provide witness protection for whistleblower Thabiso Zulu.

The order was made after the South African Human Rights Commission went to court to assist Zulu, a close friend of slain ANC Youth League leader Sindiso Magaqa.

Zulu, who testified at the Moerane commission into political killings in 2018, narrowly escaped a gun attack in Pietermaritzburg in October 2019. He was shot and wounded.

The commission announced in February it would assist him by consulting with the National Prosecution Authority about providing him with witness protection.

The SAHRC said on Friday it had received a complaint from Zulu on November 11 through its KZN office over threats to his life.

The commission said in court papers that before it received Zulu's complaint, the Office of the Public Protector had, in August 2018, issued a report on the imminent threat to Zulu’s life and recommended that the police minister provide him with protection.

“This recommendation was however not complied with by the minister. Further, the UN Special Rapporteur drafted a report that said on the whistleblower’s threat to life,” the commission said.

It said recognising the urgency of the threat to Zulu’s life, the commission wrote to police minister Bheki Cele, on an urgent basis, requesting that Zulu be provided with state-sponsored protection.

“The commission’s written correspondence and other communication remained unanswered by the South African Police Service, up until the commission received a response on January 20, 2020, requesting an extension until January 27, 2020.” 

The commission demanded to be furnished with reasons why the police needed an extension of time before providing protection for Mr Zulu.

The commission further said it received no such explanation and it then launched an urgent court application on March 3 on Zulu's behalf to obtain an order instructing the police minister to provide him with protection.

In its court application, the commission cited the SA Police Service (SAPS), the National Police Commissioner, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, and the Office of the President as respondents.

The matter was heard on Thursday. Following arguments, Judge Jody Kollapen ordered the justice minister to grant Zulu witness protection.

“This matter highlights the urgency and gravity of the right to life. The commission has taken Mr Zulu’s matter as the threat to his life is a threat to a fundamental and most sacrosanct right,” the commission said.

The commission said it regretted that it had to go to court regarding this matter instead of getting the co-operation of government to sort the matter out through discussion and negotiation.