Durban – The South African Human Rights Commission has voiced its concerns over recent political killings in the build-up to the August 3 local government elections.
The commission has also welcomed police Minister Nathi Nhleko's decision to form a special task team that will investigate politically linked killings around the country.
SAHRC spokesperson Gail Smith said over the past five years there had been about 50 politically related killings, predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
"There is the recent case where Michael Phelembe, an ANC leader in Mpumalanga, was allegedly gunned down outside his house in Pienaar.
"In February two people were killed, also in Pienaar, during protests allegedly by disgruntled ANC members over the nomination process of candidates for local elections."
Smith said a total of ten political activists had allegedly been killed in Mpumalanga in recent months.
Reminders of a tumultuous past
She said in KwaZulu-Natal several political activists were killed in Glebelands Hostel and the KwaMashu and Estcourt areas.
Smith said the commission was involved in processes to find solutions to the issues at Glebelands Hostel.
She said three members of the ANC were reportedly killed at the hostel at the weekend.
"It is of grave concern to the SAHRC that 22 years into democracy, political killings, [which are] brutal reminders of our tumultuous past, are still happening.
"Political turmoil and killings affect and violate not only the victims' right to life, but also the capacity of the State to deliver services."
Smith said the right to life should be sacrosanct in societies, particularly when it related to fundamental freedoms of political activity.
Call for restraint, tolerance
"The right to vote, freedom of expression and beliefs. No one has the right to take a life, for any reason, least of all for political gain."
She said the commission appreciated the work being done by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa to manage some of the hotspots.
"We call upon the political parties and others to exercise restraint and ensure tolerance within their ranks and towards political opponents."
The commission called on the criminal justice system to effectively deal with the killings.
"[They need to respond], regardless of party political affiliation," said Smith.