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SAHRC concerned about political killings ahead of local government polls

08 June 2016 - 18:52 By TMG Digital

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is concerned about the increase in the killing of members of political parties in the build-up to the August 3 local government elections.“It is of particular concern that these killings are occurring with regularity and that there have been few arrests and convictions of those responsible‚” the human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.Civil unrest and crime warning for South AfricaIt said that over the past five years there had been about 50 politically-related killings‚ occurring predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.“The recent killing of Michael Phelembe‚ an ANC leader in Mpumalanga‚ who was allegedly gunned outside his house in Pienaar. In February two people were killed - also in Pienaar - during protests allegedly by dissatisfied ANC members over [the] nomination process of candidates for local elections. These murders bring to ten the number of political activists killed in Mpumalanga in recent months.”Incidents had also been reported in other provinces‚ particularly KwaZulu-Natal where several political activists had been killed at the Glebelands Hostel in Kwa-Mashu near Durban and also in the Estcourt area.“The SAHRC is involved in the processes to find solutions to the issues in Glebelands Hostel. This past weekend three members of the ANC were reported to have been killed‚” the SAHRC said.“It is of grave concern to the SAHRC that 22 years into democracy‚ political killings – brutal reminders of our tumultuous past – are still happening. Political turmoil and killings affect and violate‚ not only the victims’ right to life‚ but also the capacity of the State to deliver services.“The right to life should be sacrosanct in our society and particularly when it relates to fundamental freedoms of political activity‚ the right to vote‚ freedom of expression and beliefs. No one has the right to take a life‚ for any reason‚ least of all for political gain.“We appreciate the efforts of the Independent Electoral Commission to manage some of the hotspots‚ but call upon the political parties and others to exercise restraint and ensure tolerance within their ranks and towards political opponents‚” the SAHRC added.The commission said it welcomed the recent appointment by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko of a task team to investigate politically-motivated killings‚ made up of members of the Hawks‚ forensic units and the South African Police Service.“We call upon the criminal justice system to ensure they effectively respond to the killings‚ regardless of party political affiliation. And that they ensure that perpetrators are brought to book‚ that the victims are cared for‚ and that our democracy is upheld‚” the human rights watchdog said...

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