What’s behind the upsurge in political killings in Kwazulu Natal?

Political killings have claimed more than 50 lives since 2011, and the number continues to rise as municipal elections are looming and infighting over strategic positions increases. Kwazulu Natal has the highest rate of political killings, so KWAZI DLAMINI asked a few Durban residents what they think is behind political murders.

Often, the murders are claimed to be caused by members of the same party fighting for positions. Westville’s Khulani Ngubo (25), agrees.

Khulani Ngubo[dropcap]“[/dropcap]KZN has a long history of political violence since the 90s and it doesn’t seem to end any time soon. It is no secret that even politicians themselves know that their lives are in danger, but because of the money and benefits they go in anyway. Politics is driven by greed and the killings are performed by colleagues because of money and higher positions. A person knows that if the current mayoral candidate is out of the way I can be the mayor, the only way to do that is to kill them. They must have bodyguards to be safe and make sure they pay them well because even the bodyguards can be bought to turn a blind eye.”

African National Congress (ANC) activists Phetheni Ngubane and Badedile Ntsapha are the latest victims of political killings in KZN. The pair was shot in Fedsem, Pietermaritzburg on their way back from an ANC branch election meeting. On June 23, former ANC branch treasurer Bonginkosi Shabalala appeared at the magistrate’s court in Pietermaritzburg for the murder of Ngubane and Ntsapha. A week prior to their deaths, Nathi Hlongwa, the ANC branch chairperson in the Msunduzi local municipality, was shot and killed. Mayville student, Nokwanele Ndlela (24), believes that politicians will always be in danger due to the nature of the work they do.

Nokwanele Ndlela[dropcap]“[/dropcap]Politics has always been a dangerous game and it is not for the faint-hearted. If you get into politics you must know that you will live in fear and you have a chance of being murdered anytime. I think the killings are between political parties’ candidates, like if the ANC councillor is favoured to win the elections so the other party will kill them to scare the others. There are so many ward councillors and mayors in the country so it would be costly to hire bodyguards for them; it is a tricky situation as they can’t even leave their wards because they have to manifesto for the votes.”

On 5 June, police minister Nathi Nhleko said in a statement that a special task team had been set up to investigate and try to prevent political killings. The team will be made up of members of SAPS from different units including Crime Intelligence, detectives, the Hawks and other specialised units. But will this task team be enough? Thubelihle Dzanibe (25), a DJ based in Clermont believes that the only way to keep politicians safe is to keep them in the public eye.

Thubelihle Dzanibe[dropcap]“[/dropcap]It is always about positions and money, nothing else, and that is why I’ll never be a politician. In order to survive you must have strong backing from people you trust, otherwise you will die. There is no denying that these are done by co-workers, not by opposition parties, even though sometimes opposition parties do it. I don’t see any way this can be stopped because money is everything. Even with bodyguards, they can still reach you because sometimes they torch your house. The only way to protect them is to cage them somewhere they can be seen.”

ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini told eNCA that she believes the political killings are co-ordinated efforts to intimidate communities out of voting for the ANC in the local government elections. But Bongeka Mazibuko (24), a student from Umlazi believes bigger issues are at stake and need to be addressed.

Bongeka Mazibuko[dropcap]“[/dropcap]The violence is driven by greed and people who are power hungry. Those killings are ordered by other politicians who will have political gains if the person dies. I often hear when a politician is killed prior to elections, other politicians saying they don’t know the motive yet and they can’t say it is a political killing. I get so angry because they don’t want to address the bigger problem while they see it destroying many families. The problem is that we like to sugar-coat things instead of facing reality. If a ward councillor candidate is killed prior to elections, the other candidates must be investigated hard; but then again we are facing another problem of incompetent police force. Those who are candidates must have bodyguards just like they do in the taxi industry.”

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity 

Featured image by Ihsaan Haffejee