Umzimkhulu - The shooting of three Umzimkhulu ANC councillors, in southern KwaZulu-Natal, threatens to plunge the municipality into chaos and render it ungovernable, the provincial government said on Friday.
Former ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, Ward 11 councillor Nonsikelelo Mafa and Ward 16 councillor Jabu Mzizi are currently "in a critical but stable condition" after they were shot and injured on Thursday night while returning from an ANC meeting.
Community Safety MEC Mxolisi Kaunda told journalists at a press briefing held at the Umzimkhulu council chambers that the shooting had taken place at the Ibisi bus stop.
"As the victims arrived at the bus stop, they were attacked by unknown assailants who were armed with rifles. They sustained serious injuries after the suspects unleashed a hail of bullets at their car," Kaunda said.
He revealed that the councillors were under heavy police guard in hospital.
Kaunda said, in a space of four months, two councillors and a former councillor from the same municipality have been shot dead. "This is a direct attack on our democratic institutions and the right of people to elect their public representatives," he said.
He said government had observed with concern that the modus operandi used in the Umzimkhulu killings was similar.
"Indeed, there are elements that are on the clandestine campaign to turn this region into a war zone," he said.
He said all cases of political shootings and killings in the municipality were now being handled by the National Police Task Team, "which is already in the area".
Neither Kaunda nor KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube would comment on whether the hits on the three councillors were carried out by other ANC members. "For us, a criminal is a criminal. Nobody will be allowed to hide behind the flag of a political party," Dube-Ncube said.
She reiterated that those "in the dark", planning and financing political killings, must be brought to book.
Criminals should be separated from those leaders who were responsive to the aspirations of the community, added Kaunda.
"The law will not massage those in high positions in political organisations on the basis of the position they hold," Kaunda said. Earlier on Friday, the ANC and the ANCYL in the province condemned the attack.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa described the shootings as "barbaric". ANCYL provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabela said they had no doubt that the shootings were politically motivated. Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the shooting.
He said no arrest had yet been made. Political analysts who have testified at the Moerane Commission into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal said most killings were related to competition over political positions.