ex-councillor dies

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

A former councillor of a small Free State town who survived an assassin's bullet more than a week ago has died in hospital.

Isaac Mokgatla, 38, was shot after picking up his son from school in Refengkgotso township, and spent nine days in hospital. He was admitted to Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein where he died on Saturday.

Philemon Chalale was with Mokgatla when the incident occurred on January 31.

Chalale said: "We went to his six-year-old son's school with one of our other friends. The school is in Tshepiso, an informal settlement in the township.

"I was in the front seat with Mokgatla's son. Three other children were sitting in the back of the car."

As Mokgatla was driving from the school, a man who was standing by the busy roadside pointed at their car.

Suddenly, without warning, two armed men appeared and fired shots at the car. "They fired about seven bullets. I was hit in the back and the bullet penetrated my chest.

"I was carrying Mokgatla's son on my lap, and when the bullet came out of my chest, it hit his school bag. We were very lucky because it did not hit the boy," Chalale said.

Chalale is still in a Kroonstad hospital. And besides his chest injuries, his left thigh is broken.

The other occupants of the car were not injured.

Mokgatla, provincial chairman of the United Democratic Movement and a councillor in Metsimaholo Municipality, was last year charged with inciting a mob that killed local councillor Ntai Mokoena.

He was due to appear in court on February 22 in connection with Ntai's murder.

"I believe that the shooting is related to Mokoena's killing. Outside court, his supporters always said they would avenge his death," Chalale said.

Democratic Alliance councillor Johannes Mofokeng said: "We are saddened by his death. Even though he was suspended, he was still part of the council."

The council said in a statement: "The executive mayor (Fezi Ngubentombi) condemns the shooting of councillor Mokgatla and is shocked at this evil deed, which casts a cloud at this early stage of the year .. ."

Free State police spokesman Senior Superintendent Sam Makhele said: "We can confirm that Mokgatla was shot and died later in hospital.

"We have not as yet arrested anyone in connection with the murder."