Political killings escalate in KZN

FILE PICTURE: An IEC official walks into a voter registration center. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

FILE PICTURE: An IEC official walks into a voter registration center. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

As political campaigning reaches fever pitch in KwaZulu-Natal ahead of the May 7 elections, incidents of violence and intimidation are on the increase, sparking fears the province could be plunged into political strife, last seen in the ’90s.

In the latest episode of political confrontations in the province, Sithembiso Biyela, a member of the ANC was murdered in the notorious KwaMashu hostel in what is believed to be a political motivated hit. His girlfriend was shot and had to be rushed to hospital.

In the same weekend, members of the National Freedom Party (NFP), who were on a door-to-door campaign in Umzumbe, northern KZN, were attacked by a group of people who later set their cars alight. Two cars belonging to NFP supporters were burnt.

The incidents are the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks in the past few weeks that have left several people either dead or injured.

In the KwaMashu hostel, a confrontation between supporters of rival political parties saw a leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in the area, Vincent Khumalo, being arrested last month.

Khumalo is on trial for the attempted murder of Nomusa Nhlenyama and Zama Sithole, both NFP supporters, who were shot while campaigning.

The attack on Sithole and Nhlenyama was soon followed by the killing of another NFP leader, Ntombi Mzila, 48, who was gunned down in the same hostel.

A few days later, IFP Women’s Brigade branch leader Nonhlanhla Biyela was also gunned down.

“The problem in this province is that certain political parties had encouraged this idea of no-go areas,” NFP national organiser, Bonga Nzuza, said.

“Yes, there have been these agreements between political parties not to intimidate or attack members of other parties, but on the ground it is a different story. Several of our members are being attacked daily and get blocked when they try to campaign in certain areas,” Nzuza said.

The ANC, which Nzuza said performed badly when it comes to political tolerance, accused certain parties in the province of waging a low-intensity war against ruling party members.

“This begs the question whether certain elements are not engaged in a low-intensity attack on ANC members ahead of the elections. Biyela’s killing bears the hallmarks of a carefully crafted plan to use intimidation and violence as a way of frustrating the will of the people,” ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala said.

In a veiled attack on the IFP, which last week won the by-elections at KwaMashu hostel’s ward 39, Zikalala said the escalation of violence in the area was proof that the hostel was now being controlled by thugs.

The IFP was not available for comment.

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