Durban – On Thursday morning KwaZulu-Natal woke up to the news of what appears to be another politically motivated killing. Two elderly woman, aged 50 and 60, had been shot while making their way home from a branch general meeting in Imbali township in Pietermaritzburg.
The women were reportedly attacked after attending a meeting in Ward 15. One woman died at the scene and the other was believed to be fighting for her life in hospital.
The Department of Community Safety and Liaison in KZN said, however, it was very difficult to immediately pronounce on whether the deaths were politically motivated or not as police were still investigating.
Department spokesperson Sipho Khumalo said a multi-party political intervention committee, which meets every Monday, had been formed to deal with safety concerns in the province in the lead-up to the elections.
"Last elections we had three deaths, a person was killed in KwaDukuza and two people were killed in Wembezi. Two of the cases were not political while the KwaDukuza one was an ANC representative."
Khumalo said a KwaNongoma ANC councillor, Thami Nyembe, was killed last month and another ANC councillor in Glebelands, Zondwa Sibiya, was also killed recently.
SAHRC weighs in
Last week, two Pietermaritzburg men were reportedly killed in what appears to be politically linked deaths.
Mpofana municipality chief financial officer Simo Mncwabe was killed in Edendale while taking his children to school and the branch chairperson of Edendale, Nathi Hlongwa, was reportedly shot and killed in Mbali township.
The South African Human Rights Commission on Wednesday weighed in on the killings.
In a statement, the commission said over the past five years, there had been about 50 politically related killings, predominantly in KZN and Mpumalanga.
"Michael Phelembe, an ANC leader in Mpumalanga was allegedly gunned down outside his house in Pienaar and in February two men were killed, also in Pienaar, during protests allegedly by disgruntled ANC members over nomination processes of candidates for local elections. These murders bring to ten the number of political activists killed in Mpumalanga in recent months," the statement read.
While the commission has voiced its concern over the killings, the KZN police said they could not conclusively say that the killings were politically motivated.
Councillors sentenced for hit
"We do not categorise murder cases since the motive in most cases can only be revealed during court proceedings. We will not be able to assist in that matter," said KZN police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane.
Last month the Durban High Court sentenced two ANC councillors and another man to jail for allegedly ordering a hit on a community activist in 2014.
Thulisile Ndlovu, who was a member of Abahlahi baseMjondolo, a civil rights organisation, was reportedly shot and killed by a 31-year-old who was hired by the then eThekwini metro councillors Mduduzi Ngcobo, 52, and Velile Lutsheko, 57.
The ANC in the province did not respond to News24 queries about how many of its members had been killed in the lead-up to the elections.
Inkatha Freedom Party's head of elections Albert Mncwango said none of the party's councillors had been killed this year.
Mncwango said 15 councillors were killed in the lead up to the 2011 local government elections.
"We are grossly worried about members of other political parties who are being killed in what appears to be politically motivated deaths."
He said the killing of councillors had become a common occurrence in KZN.
National Freedom Party spokesperson Sabelo Sigudu said about 21 councillors and members have been killed since the 2011 local government elections.
"This year we have one councillor who was killed, Beauty Zondi, from Msinga Local Municipality," said Sigudu.
DA leader in KZN Zwakele Mncwango said there have not been any killings but there had been incidences of intimidation.
KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said over the years there had been a decrease in inter-party violence and an increase of intra-party violence, especially, but not exclusively, in the ANC.
Enter the EFF
"This has been linked to struggles around nominations and, in some cases, it has targeted officials, including councilors, who have been fighting against corruption.
"The Glebelands violence, which has cost over 60 lives in two years, has political overtones linked to ANC members, some of whom had crossed to COPE and then returned to the ANC, complaining about the councilors and service delivery failure and being accused of bringing the ANC into disrepute by doing so."
De Haas said since the last local government elections there had been many allegations of irregularities surrounding the selection of candidates.
She said the intra-ANC tensions could be linked to factions.
"The threat of violence or incidents of violence is also linked to dissatisfaction over service delivery and what is often fierce competition to get nominated because being a councilor is a lucrative job."
De Haas said political intolerance had been a feature of life in the province since 1994.
"While the relationship between the IFP and the ANC had improved… I think it is going to be very conspicuous once the EFF starts canvassing in earnest," said De Haas.