The family of a man who was beaten to a pulp allegedly by a KwaZulu-Natal municipality mayor and her two bodyguards says he fears for his life and even wants to withdraw the case after being threatened.
Uphongolo local municipality mayor Bawinile Nhlabathi and her two bodyguards Thabani Mthabela and Mxolisi Vilane face charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The accused appeared at Uphongolo Magistrate Court on Monday and the matter was postponed to 14 May for a trial date.
Nhlabathi and the two bodyguards are alleged to have severely beaten up Thabo Gumbi, 24, leaving him unconscious with severe injuries. The alleged attack left Gumbi with severe damage to his kidneys. He was also left paralysed in his left arm. According to a doctor’s medical report, Gumbi also suffered internal bleeding and severe injuries to his spine.
Gumbi says the reason for the alleged attack was because he had taken a short cut on a foot pathway that crosses through Nhlabathi’s ancestral home at eMatshamnyama village in Uphongolo, northern KZN.
The mayor’s relatives including his sister and two brothers who are also in the dock allegedly joined the fray when Gumbi was mercilessly beaten.
Now Gumbi’s livid aunt Khethiwe Mfusi who was also present during the alleged attack says as the family wants to move on and forget about what happened. She says the incident is having a heavy toll on the family.
“We now have to continuously watch our backs because we are receiving anonymous phone calls telling us to convince Thabo to withdraw the case. He was first offered money which he refused so now they want to harm him,” says Mfusi.
Speaking to Inside Metro, Mfusi says this has been brought to the attention of the investigating officer and the court which made an order that that Nhlabathi together with her co-accused should never interact with the victim or his family.
“But this is emotionally draining and politicians always have their way. We might as well forget that this ever took place so that we can stay safe. Even the witnesses are reluctant to testify because they also fear for their lives,” she says.
Nhlabathi refused to comment on the matter and the alleged threats saying it was now in court. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the province has called on Nhlabathi to step down.
“We have long called for the mayor to step down because she is facing serious charges. It boggles one’s mind as to why her party the ANC has not decisively dealt with the mayor. We are also supporting the family in their quest for justice,” says EFF provincial chairperson Vusi Khoza.
Asked to comment on the failure to discipline Nhlabathi, the ANC’s provincial spokesperson Ricardo Mthembu said the matter was being considered by the provincial executive committee.
“It’s not that we are not acting as ANC, the secretary general has already requested a written explanation from the mayor. This will then be forwarded to the provincial working committee and the PEC who will escalate the matter further,” said Mthembu.
He cited the COVID-19 outbreak as having affected the operations in the party and delaying disciplinary matters which were long overdue.