Police have made a breakthrough in the July 2020 murder of a community leader linked to the Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) company.
A 40-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the murder that took place at the Richards Bay Mall in 2020.
Judia Mbuyazi, 48, was gunned down on 28 July 2020.
This week, an intelligence-driven operation led to the arrest of Omega Khulani Ngubane, 40.
Shortly after, a case of murder was opened at Richards Bay SAPS for further investigation.
Following several incidents where people linked to RBM were targeted, the police established a team under the Provincial Organised Crime Unit in June 2021 to specifically investigate those cases.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said: "The matter where Mbuyazi was killed, was amongst those cases. This arrest follows an intensive investigation by the team which required a lot of hard work and dedication under extremely difficult circumstances and more arrests can be expected."
Ngubane appeared at the Richards Bay Magistrate's Court on Tuesday and the matter was postponed to 15 March for a formal bail application.
"The accused will be profiled to establish if he is linked to any of the other cases investigated by the team," said Mbele
Mbuyazi was shot dead in 2020 shortly after a meeting with Premier Sihle Zikalala in an attempt to resolve conflict in the surrounding areas.
He was gunned down just a few minutes after the meeting. There had been several issues in the area, including a stalemate in the KwaMbuyazi community at Richards Bay, where the RBM mine and smelter is located.
Fin24 reported RBM reopened its operations around last August, after being closed since June due to local unrest. RBM also released more than R130 million to community trusts - which it had withheld due to concerns over transparency at these trusts.
The company, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, was thrown into turmoil in May following the murder of its general manager, Nico Swart, who was shot multiple times on his way to work.
Ahead of the reopening, the company engaged with local communities to address the key triggers of the ongoing violence.
This included tensions over the disbursement of money to community trusts, which the company had been withholding for a while due to a lack of transparency in the management of the trusts.
Last year, RBM managing director, Werner Duvenhage, said the R130 million was paid.
The RBM operations - which include the mining, refining, and smelting of heavy minerals - span several different villages, including Mbonambi, Sokhulu, Mkhwanazi, and Dube.
In 2009, as part of its BEE transaction, RBM established community trusts for these communities, who were due to receive dividend payments to support broad-based community upliftment.
But the company then raised "serious concerns around the governance of the community trusts", including that the money was not being used for the broader benefit of communities.
The eight community trusts also had a history of not adhering to financial reporting as required and producing qualified statements, prompting the company to withhold payments.
Last year, an agreement was signed with communities that would provide for improved governance and controls of community trusts, as well transparency.