South Africa

ROAD TO LOCAL ELECTIONS

KZN killing fields: Political murders surge as November 2021 polls draw near

Police Minister Bheki Cele visits the homes of the deceased and crime scenes in Inanda, Durban on 14 September 2021. His visit comes after a black Opel Corsa bakkie with five occupants, opened fire on a group of people waiting outside local primary school, killing Ncami Shange (34), Beatrice Nzama (60) and Philisiwe Jili (37). Five people were injured. (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

There are fears that a drive-by shooting in Inanda is the start of more political killings ahead of local government elections in KwaZulu-Natal.

While the local government elections in 2011 and 2016 were conducted in a relatively peaceful atmosphere in most of South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal the polls were accompanied by violence and killing of leaders and candidates.

The police recorded at least 33 political murders in the province between January 2016 and June 2017. They include Bongani Skhosana, Khanyisile Ngobese-Sibisi and Thembi Mbongo, all of whom were ANC councillor candidates who were gunned down just days before the 2016 local government elections. 

Thembi Mbongo. (Photo:Supplied)
Khanyisil Ngobese-Sibisi. (Photo: Supplied)
Bongani Skhosana. (Photo: Supplied)

Their faces were on the posters when the elections were held on 3 August 2016 and they won their wards “posthumously”. But the Independent Electoral Commission had to hold by-elections on 7 November 2016 in Skhosana’s Ward 1 in Umuziwabantu Local Municipality (Harding), Ngobese-Sibisi’s Ward 20 in Alfred Duma Local Municipality (Ladysmith) and Mbongo’s Ward 6 in Newcastle Local Municipality. 

Although a few leaders and councillors from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the National Freedom Party were killed during this period, most attacks were ANC-related, and were often referred to as intra-party killings, because they were believed to stem from jockeying for position within the ruling party. 

Moerane Commission of Inquiry

The killings continued after the Moerane Commission of Inquiry was established by the then KZN premier, Willies Mchunu, in October 2016 to probe political killings in the province since 2011.

Professor Paulus Zulu from the University of KwaZulu-Natal testified at the commission that an academic study showed that the province has a culture of blood-letting, mainly for positions in social and political structures.

The commission has since tabled its report, and the political killings continue.

On Saturday afternoon, ANC members were holding a meeting in Inanda’s Buhlebethu Primary, in eThekwini’s Ward 54, when men on the back of a bakkie opened fire, killing Beatrice Dlamini (75), Ncami Shange (34) and Philisiwe Jili (39) and injuring five other women and one man. They were standing in a queue to vote for an ANC councillor candidate. 

Mandla Mkhwanazi, Ward 54 councillor, said the community was shocked by the incident. 

“We understand when there are contests and people have different views. But there is no need for violence. We are still wondering what type of person can open fire on a group of people, especially women.”

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) in KwaZulu-Natal condemned the killings as a “barbaric act” and called on police to act swiftly to arrest the perpetrators.

Nonhlanhla Gabela, ANCWL provincial secretary, said: “As the ANCWL, we find the use of violence on an unarmed group of women or delegates appalling. As much as we have no idea what led to the shooting, such acts of violence remind us of unpleasant scenes when people were killed for what they believed in.

“As a province, we have lost many lives due to political violence and we never thought that during this time, while in a democratic country, we would witness such killings of defenceless women.” 

Glebelands Hostel a ‘reservoir of hitmen’

Another ANC-related incident happened in Durban’s Glebelands Hostel on Sunday, 12 September when Sthembiso Mkhize (41), a member of the local peace committee and a supporter of the ANC, was shot and killed in Glebelands Block R. He died instantly. His neighbours said he was shot in front of his three-year-old son. There are fears that his death could trigger more murders in the hostel.

According to Vanessa Burger, an independent community activist for human rights and social justice who has researched violence at the hostels in Durban, more than 150 killings throughout KZN and other provinces can be linked to hitmen who allegedly reside at Glebelands, or have ties to the hostel.

During the Moerane Commission hearing the hostel was referred to as a “reservoir of hitmen”. The commission made an on-site visit to the hostel in September 2017.

Burger said the hostel is on a knife-edge after Mkhize’s murder.

“It seems the people of Glebelands… may never be free from this cycle of generational violence passed in blood from father to son and from mother to daughter, from which there is almost no hope of escaping without a real social and economic transformation grounded in political will and backed by sound governance and a rule of law, all of which are entirely absent from South Africa’s increasingly lethal, self-serving dystopian political landscape,” she said. 

Some of the bullet holes – marked and numbered with green police stickers – that pierced the car in which Sindiso Magaqa was travelling. (Photo: Carien Du Plessis)

Hit on Sindiso Magaqa 

Another political murder that featured prominently at the commission was that of former ANCYL national secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, who was a councillor in Umzimkhulu Local Municipality at the time of his death in September 2017. He was coming from an ANC meeting when the car he was travelling in with two other councillors was ambushed. They were all injured and Magaqa died of his injuries in a Durban hospital. He was a whistle-blower in one of the dodgy multimillion-rand tenders awarded by the municipality. The men arrested for Magaqa’s death are still facing trial.

In all the political murders committed in KZN, there have been very few arrests and even fewer convictions. 

Mid Illovo a hotspot 

Mid Illovo, in the Mkhambathini Local Municipality, is another hotspot where recently there have been a number of killings. In May this year the house of Ward 7 councillor Mzwandile Shandu was attacked and two men, believed to be foreign nationals who were doing carpentry work in the house, were shot and killed.

Before the attack, Shandu’s brother and a woman friend were shot and killed by unknown men in their vehicle in Dwengu in Mid Illovo. Their bodies were discovered in the veld by cattle herders.

In August, 32-year-old Ntobe Shezi, who was recently nominated as the ANC candidate in the 2021 local government elections, and her sister Thabisile were attacked by a group.

Shezi said they are fearful because their brother, who was also an ANC member, was shot and killed three months ago. His killers are still at large.

Shezi and her sister have been forced to leave their home at KwaDwengu in Mid Illovo following the attack on their homestead.

Shezi said she believes the attack on her was carried out by her political enemies as some people had threatened that “they will not be led by a woman”.

‘Acts of criminals’

Nhlakanipho Ntombela, spokesperson for the ANC in KZN, said they are aware that the councillor candidate nomination processes are accompanied by tension and contestations, but they didn’t expect these to spill out into open violence.

“These are not political acts, these are acts of criminals. We extend our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” he said.

Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, political science professor at the University of the Western Cape, said ANC-related violence had become a norm ahead of local government polls, especially in KZN.

Politics of enrichment

Mngomezulu said when the first democratic local government elections were held in 1995, KZN had to delay theirs until the following year because of violence between the ANC and the IFP.

He said that now members of the ANC have turned against each other in acts of brutal violence.

“It is clear that during these difficult economic times many people see the position of the councillor as a very lucrative space where they can earn a handsome salary, get closer to dishing out tenders and get other remunerations on the side. 

“That is why many people enter the political space – not to serve the people but to enrich themselves. Whenever they see a rival candidate who is better than them they do their best to eliminate that individual; that’s why you see so many killings during this time. 

“Also, the factional battles become even more severe and deadly in branches. Our law enforcement agencies should get wind of these killings and arrest those who are involved so that they would eliminate the culture of impunity,” he said.

Minister of Police Bheki Cele visits the crimes scenes in Inanda, Durban on 14 September 2021, following the killing Ncami Shange (34), Beatrice Nzama (60) and Philisiwe Jili (37). (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

Cele visit to Inanda

The police say these murders have been referred to the provincial political killings task team. Jay Naicker, police spokesperson, said police were still investigating the murders but no one has been arrested yet.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday and he was briefed by SAPS KZN top brass about the shooting in Inanda. He was accompanied by Deputy Police Minister Cassel Mathale and Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa.

He visited the scene of the shooting and  spoke to the families of the victims.

Cele urged community members to work with the police to find the killers. He said people must not be afraid to vote in the local government elections.

“The investigation has been taken [over] by the political task team. This is an attack on democracy. We will be working very hard so that we don’t have further loss of lives [as we head towards the local government elections],” said Cele.  DM

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All Comments 18

  • The ANC, ANCWL, or YL or COSATU to name a few will always condemn violence or any sort and do nothing after blowing hot air. Why bother? If it were serious about what they say, they would follow the cases with the SAPS, NPA and the HAWKS. Very much like opposition parties sometimes do. It irked me when the media gives them airtime to listen to prerecorded messages.

    • I agree to a certain extent. I find myself in a position where I am not even shocked by this anymore. We are not moral and we cannot police it effectively, so we should somehow remove the incentive.

  • “S***hole African Country” springs to mind! Only animals behave like this – killing each other over a piece of meat! How long does evolution have to take in Africa? Seriously?
    Bright enough to operate cellphones and DSTV but when it comes to understanding Democracy, Decency, Morality and Ethics…the brain stops functioning! I would so like someone to prove me wrong…it would alleviate the stress of being a taxpayer who no longer sees any benefit in living here but has no choice!

  • I find this kind of alarmist reportage unhelpful. Lacks detail. Makes generalisations based on assumptions. Begs more questions than giving answers. News 24 does it all the time that’s why I subscribe to Maverick.

  • The reasons for these political murders in KZN exist in other provinces too. So why is it only in KZN that these murders take place? Of course, the failure of SAPS to hold the culprits accountable breeds an environment of impunity which keeps feeding the cycle election after election!

  • What good does a clown in a hat visiting the crime scene do? It is his incompetence that allows such barbarism to continue. What a fool.

    There is too much money in politics. Life becomes cheap enough already when a bunch of terrorists think they can pretend to be a government, but then adding bucket loads of money to the mix and all vestiges of their humanity disappears. And lo and behold, they have become the monsters that they claim to have fought so bravely against…

  • This is tragic and barbaric! It highlights the insatiable greed to get to the feeding trough. And; the best the Man in the Hat can do, is fly around the country endlessly visiting multiple appalling crime scenes instead of getting SAPS to actually do their job and protect citizens!

  • “Cele urged community members to work with the police to find the killers”. Completely uninformed, but clever political statement. Uninformed because Cele has no clue of the extent of public mistrust in the police – help the police, the criminals get your details, and you are next on their hit-list. There is no protection of information. Clever because now the community is at fault when no arrests are made.

  • I guess large segments of our society will remain in the Dark Ages so long as there are political appointments to paying jobs. Maybe we need to disallow any form of remuneration at local government level as well as not giving councillors access to public funds or the opportunity to enter contracts. These utterly useless people that are appointed as councillors should be locked in a room to drink tea and discuss the merits of being a barbarian.

  • These political killings of ANC on ANC is just another manifestation of the horrid factionalism within the ranks of the governing party, but also an indictment of that party’s total failure to provide decent jobs . As there are very few available, the demand at local government for a paying position is very high and and apparently any means justifies obtaining one , even if it means mudering you

  • We are all, especially the government – at all levels – treading warily around the space when it is clear to any informed, dispassionate observer in the South African political space, that this killing spree is the product of internecine ANC party politics, wherein, what could be defined as the Gupta/Zuma/Magashule faction, are desperately trying to hang on to patronage and power, and will go to any lengths, including the July insurrection.

    What is equally clear is that, what could broadly be defined as the police/SSA/Securocrat sector, are wholly unwilling to properly investigate and hold these assassins to account.

    These are the depths into which our country has sunk.

  • A councillor used to be a respected community member. Gave of their time and only received out of pocket expenses. No executive mayors. The city was run by town clerk and heads of department all of whom were eminently qualified. No unexplained expenditure, all within budget,and services were provided. Today’s full time overpaid political appointments, are very sought-after positions, even leading to fierce competition that often requires the removal of a competitor.

    • The ANC has created a patronage monster that they can no longer control. Their internal dispute resolution processes and structures are delinquent. Their party disciplinary structures are incompetent and populated with compromised cadres. The ANC is bankrupt financially and ideologically. The sharp rise in political assassinations is a direct consequence of their inability to professionally manage and operate a political party. This extends to a failure to manage the economy and create real jobs that their members can occupy. Instead it is a fight to the death to secure a political job at all costs.

  • “With Local Elections around the corner, we want to know what concerns our readers most. Help us by answering the question below. ” This is broken.