Climate of fear grips Estcourt

2013-05-22 00:00

PEACE and political stability in the Estcourt area are under threat if yesterday’s display by the major political parties there is anything to go by.

The parties met the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, and the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, to discuss an increase in politically motivated killings in the past few months.

Mchunu, who was the first to address the meeting, said he was concerned that the violence in Estcourt would escalate in next year’s elections.

He said there were incidents — such as the shooting of the Imbabazane Mayor Phindi Strydom last month — that showed the area was teetering on the brink of political disaster.

“These are signs that one of these days we will come here and find the area in a full-scale war, in broad daylight”.

The hostility between the parties’ representatives was clearly evident at the meeting.

Although they spoke of the need to work together to bring peace and stability to the area, they blamed each other for causing the ongoing political violence.

The police said 14 cases of murder and attempted murder had been opened since August last year. In seven of the cases at least 12 people had been arrested. The suspects had also been linked to other cases. Five of the cases were being treated as murder and nine as attempted murder investigations. Police had recovered several firearms.

An annoyed Mthethwa stopped just short of calling the meeting a waste of time.

“I hear all that you [party leaders] are saying. You are saying similar things … I thought you would stand up here and say ‘my party will stop killing people’.

“You are all explaining the things here, but it still does not explain why people are being killed. Why are God’s people being killed?” he asked.

Estcourt’s ANC mayor, Bongani Dlamini, was the first to point a finger when he expressed concern that one of the people arrested in one of the shootings had been identified as a relative of a National Freedom Party councillor, whom he did not name.

“This [arrest] has created tensions and an atmosphere of distrust within the council. When we go to a meeting, we never know whether the meeting is going to proceed or if it is going to turn into a fight.”

Dlamini said the attempts to unseat the ANC mayors in that region were also increasing the tension.

“This has happened several times and there is clearly an inclination to overthrow the municipalities in an undemocratic way.”

The NFP leaders took issue with the implication that the councillor whose relative was linked to an attempted murder was guilty by association.

“Whatever happened to being presumed innocent until proven guilty?” said Mbuzeleni Mkhize, the deputy mayor in Imbabazane Municipality.

He said his party did not take kindly to being accused of political killings.

Local Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mthembeni Majola accused Mchunu and Mthethwa of favouritism. He accused the two of reacting to the political violence in the area only after ANC leaders had been attacked or killed.

“We are also unhappy that the ANC has gone on national radio to accuse us of being involved in the killings.”

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