The cousin and the son of an ANC deputy mayor are among the six men who appeared this week in court for the murder of anti-corruption campaign and former ANC Pietermaritzburg councilor Musawenkosi "Maqatha" Mchunu earlier this year.
Gift Zungu is the son of Umgungundlovu district municipality deputy mayor Thandiwe "Fucwana" Zungu. He and his nephew Nkosinathi Gambu were arrested at the weekend with four other men for the murder.
Gambu is also a council member in the ANC Msunduzi municipality (Pietermaritzburg).
The other four – Skhanyiso Zimu, Sifiso Mbhele, Mlungisi Zumu and Ayanda Ngubane – are members of the Ward 10 committee of the ANC.
Automatic weapons, allegedly without a license, were seized by Gambu's bodyguards. The men were held in pre-trial detention until September 20.
Deputy mayor Zungu was a member of the ANC regional council, which was in conflict with Moses Mabhida, and was replaced by a regional task force team that dissolved itself because it had not organized a regional conference last month.
READ MORE: ANC & # 39; s regional conference Mozes Mabhida postponed indefinitely
She also served in the working committee of the Moses Mabhida region, one of the most affected by the wave of political murders of ANC councilors or candidates who had started before the local municipal elections of 2016.
Mchunu was shot on KwaPata in May. ANC activists, councilors and officials have been murdered in Mkhambathini, Richmond, Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River, all of whom are in the Moses Mabhida region.
The arrest of the group casts in grim relief the intensity of the political conflict in the region and the province in the run-up to the national conference of the government party in Nasrec in December and in its aftermath.
The regional leadership of Zungu supported the unsuccessful presidential bid of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the "status quo" at the provincial conference in KwaZulu-Natal, which was lost.
The arrests also put a new strain on the fragile unit in the ANC in the province, which saw a leadership of the Dlamini-Zuma faction and supporters of the campaign of President Cyril Ramaphosa who was elected in July.
The tensions that had begun before the 2015 provincial conference – unlawfully declared by the high court in Pietermaritzburg – had escalated, with the wave of political murders that prompted the appointment of the Moerane commission by Premier Willies Mchunu.
The tensions have also paralyzed the Msunduzi council, with recent council meetings that failed the quorum due to members of the Dlamini-Zuma support group who refused to attend.
Mchunu, who had been a counselor for Ward 10 until 2011, was at the time of his death working as a public participation officer in the office of Msunduzi speaker Jabu Ngubo.
He was at the forefront of community protests on alleged corruption in Msunduzi and led various marches to the ANC regional offices and the town hall of Pietermaritzburg. He was also a member of the group of Ramaphosa-supporting branches who had filed complaints about the supposed bias of the Regional Missions of Moses Mabhida and who had met the National Disputes Commission of the ANC under the guidance of Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte.
About a month before his death, Mchunu was involved in a series of protests about alleged corruption involving residential districts in district 10. In one of them, a scuffle broke out between residents and Gambu's bodyguards.
"In the process, a person got in the leg," said an ANC member of the department who asked to remain anonymous.
"Maqatha brought that person to Edendale Hospital where they treated him," he said. "The tensions were heavy in the neighborhood, here [the arrests of the six men] is a big breakthrough. Comrades are murdered everywhere in this region, here, Richmond, Mkhambathini, and nobody has been arrested. Maybe we will now get answers. & # 39;
During the trial by the six hundreds of ANC members protested outside the courthouse of the magistrate of Pietermaritzburg, while others filled the court, which was heavily secured by the police.
READ MORE: Moses Mabhida is missing the deadline
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Gugu Simelane-Zulu said the party was shocked by the arrests and called on all ANC members to cooperate with law enforcement agencies investigating the murders of Mchunu and other killings. She said that although the accused were supposed to be innocent, the ANC believed that the accusations were "extraordinarily serious".
"We are hopeful that the legal system will do its job independently and quickly, and if we finish this issue quickly, the ANC can start its internal disciplinary process to send a strong message, where necessary," she said.