Political killings to be addressed in KZN before elections: safety MEC

05 October 2023 - 19:45
Provincial MEC for transport and community safety Sipho Hlomuka at a briefing in Durban.
Image: Lwazi Hlangu Provincial MEC for transport and community safety Sipho Hlomuka at a briefing in Durban.

KZN transport and community safety MEC Sipho Hlomuka is worried about a noticeable upsurge in political violence in the KwaNongoma municipality since the removal of the IFP and DA leadership.

“What is worrying in Nongoma is that the trend of assassinating councillors started immediately after the coalition led by the NFP, ANC and EFF took over. When the IFP was in power we did not see these rampant attacks and threats on councillors’ lives.”

The municipality was considered an IFP stronghold, but the party was ruling in coalition with the DA and the EFF after the 2021 local government elections.

After the breakdown in the relationship between the IFP and the EFF, the latter joined the ANC and NFP coalition, and the IFP mayor and speaker were removed through a vote of no confidence in February this year.

“Since the changes in the leadership of the local council it seems clear that there is deliberate act to force by-elections,” said Hlomuka.

Hlomuka was addressing journalists in Mayville on Tuesday on the progress made by the community safety and liaison department in the fight against crime — particularly the killings of public representatives — and early preparations for the 2023 national elections.

He announced plans to work on restoring political tolerance in the province before next year's elections.

He said the provincial government will reconvene the multiparty political intervention committee which will meet on Monday to strategise on how to defuse “inter-” and “intra-” political conflict and promote democratic coexistence between political parties, among other discussions.

He said political killings were nothing new in the area, but they had quietened down until the removal of the coalition by the DA, IFP and EFF at the time.

“There was an establishment of council in November 2021 and there was no councillor, who was killed when there was the coalition of the IFP, DA and EFF. But after the change of leadership in the municipality through the coalition of the NFP-ANC and the EFF in August this year, councillors were attacked.”

NFP Nongoma municipality councillor Ntombenhle Mchunu was gunned down in her home in late July. In August, Mphathiseni Manqele, also an NFP councillor in the area, was hospitalised after surviving a shooting by a hit man.

“After the shooting of the councillor, who survived, and the suspect was caught by the community there was a motion of no confidence against the sitting leadership because they thought the councillor was no longer. We are human beings, the logic tells us there is a power struggle in that area,” said Hlomuka.

The hitman who allegedly tried to kill Manqele was caught by community members and was saved by police from mob justice, an act for which Hlomuka commended the community.

“We commend the fact that the community is now vigilant and is working with the police to make sure that izinkabi that are hired to kill councillors are arrested.”

There was another attempt on an NFP councillor’s life last week, but the criminals shot her husband instead when they could not find her, Hlomuka said.

“The four suspects were arrested with three illegal firearms and ammunition. We want to know who is behind destabilising Nongoma and why.”

He emphasised, however, that he was not casting aspersions on any party but was pointing out a “recent appetite for killing politicians” in the area since August.

“We are not saying it’s the DA or IFP or anyone, but we’re saying it’s very interesting that for the past 18 months, there was a coalition between these political parties, so why now?”

Along with KwaNongoma, Hlomuka flagged eThekwini and Umkhambathini municipalities as areas that are giving the provincial government problems around political violence lately.

However, Hlomuka said he was pleased with the progress the police, particularly the interministerial task team, were making in dealing with political killings.

He said the interministerial committee report showed that 321 dockets had been produced so far, with 155 of the cases being of murder, 51 attempted murder, 77 intimidation and 12 conspiracy to commit murder.

Of the 321 dockets, 134 cases were reported between 2011 and June 2018 before the task team commenced its work.

He added that 46 firearms had been recovered from suspects in that time, which had been linked to multiple politically related murders being investigated by the task team.

Mazwi Blose, EFF provincial spokesperson, agreed with Hlomuka's observations, laying blame on the IFP for bloodshed in the province.

He alleged that there was a voice note made by an IFP councillor in the municipality that circulated after the swearing-in of the NFP mayor, which said they would do everything in their power to bring back Nongoma — and Mchunu was killed immediately after that.

“We know the IFP for their violence and their history of political intolerance in the province so Hlomuka is making a very correct observation. There is that instability in Nongoma, and they (IFP) feel entitled to that municipality for one reason or another. They feel that it can only be the IFP who governs there.

“Remember the havoc the IFP made when they were removed: blocking the gates with sand, climbing on tables naked and all that — so now they continue to kill our people, which is very troublesome.

“We are very concerned about that, we have a deputy mayor there who has increased his security and all those things.”

However, IFP provincial leader Thami Ntuli slammed Hlomuka for making comments that seemingly accuse them of serious matters in public.

“It's unfortunate that he is making comments that can be construed as accusatory which does not help the community in any way, while we're faced with so much political killing at municipal level. Such reckless comments by a person who should be bringing solutions shows a lack of leadership in the province.”

He said Hlomuka's remarks were baseless and that he should, instead, focus on making arrests and equipping police with enough resources before making public such insinuations.

“Those are unsubstantiated accusations made by someone who heads a department that should be upholding the law. He is supposed to make arrests and then he can announce if they have apprehended anyone from the IFP.

“If he knows who did what in KwaNongoma — while leading a police portfolio — he should've arrested that person. He should be doing his work to arrest the criminals who are killing councillors and help the police with enough resources so they can stop this scourge.”