EFF councillor accused of raping NMU student resigns

RAPE ACCUSED: Zilindile Vena, who handed himself over to police on Monday morning, before appearing briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court
RAPE ACCUSED: Zilindile Vena, who handed himself over to police on Monday morning, before appearing briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court

An EFF councillor who is accused of raping a Nelson Mandela University student has resigned.

The Nelson Mandela Bay councillor, Zilindile Vena, 34, handed himself over to the police on Monday morning, before appearing briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.

Though the state initially requested bail of R5,000, it was set at R2,000, which he paid before he was released.

Vena, who is also a member of the EFF’s national leadership body — the central command team — is accused of raping a 22-year-old NMU student at a flat in Central in the early hours of Saturday morning.

He confirmed in a statement that he had resigned as a councillor and that his membership had been suspended.

On Sunday, he handed in his resignation as a Bay councillor, according to EFF regional chair Amandlangawethu Madaka.

He has also withdrawn from all party activities, Madaka said.

Madaka said Vena had phoned to tender his resignation from all EFF-related activities.

“I am on my way from East London from a provincial plenary.

“Yesterday [ Sunday] he called me and said that he was tendering his resignation as a councillor of the EFF.

“He has resigned,” Madaka said, without providing the reasons for Vena’s resignation.

Three EFF communication staffers, including newly elected spokesperson Vuyani Pambo, said a statement would be issued by the party, but it had not been received by The Herald at the time of  publication.

Bay council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya said she had not received any resignation letter from Vena or the party by Monday afternoon.  

“This is the first time I am hearing about this now,” Mafaya said.

When contacted for comment, Vena said: “I will contact The Herald shortly.”

He then dropped the phone and further calls to him went unanswered.

In a statement later, he confirmed that he had resigned.

“I do this on account of rape charges laid against myself, to which I accounted and was taken into custody for on the morning of 17th February 2020.

“My resignation from the Nelson Mandela Bay Council and suspension of all relevant party activity is done so I can face the rule of law with regards to the allegations levelled against me and protect the esteem and integrity of the organisation I belong to.

“A public representative must resemble the highest level of moral integrity, responsibility and must be an example to the community he leads,” Vena said.

“I intend to co-operate with all relevant arms of law enforcement in the speedy handling of this matter and maintain that I am against all forms of gender-based violence,” he added.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said: “This office confirms an incident where a 22-year-old complainant alleges to have been raped by a 34-year-old man in a particular flat at Central, in Port Elizabeth.

“The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently under investigation by the Family, Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit,” Kinana said.

“The 34-year-old suspect handed himself [in] to the police and was immediately taken to court on rape charges [and] the court granted him bail,” he said.

Through his attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, Vena said he would plead not guilty to raping a young NMU student after a Valentine’s Day celebration.

Though the prosecution was initially opposed to his release from custody, defence attorney Ngqeza argued that Vena was not a flight risk and would not interfere with the complainant or tamper with the state’s case.

After making a brief first appearance late on Monday morning, when his rights were explained to him by a magistrate, Vena was escorted to the courtroom next door to apply for bail.

Reading his client’s personal particulars into the record, Ngqeza said Vena would abide by his bail conditions and attend all future court appearances.

Though he denied the allegations, he would not disclose his defence at this stage.

Further details of the alleged incident remain sketchy.

Vena is expected back in court on April 15.