Thursday's assassination of ANC leader Sthe Mhlongo has raised fears that politically-motivated attacks may plunge KwaZulu-Natal into “instability”.ANC Moses Mabhida regional chairperson Mthandeni Dlungwane blamed the killing on “elements who stand to benefit should our region and the province be plunged into violence”. Mhlongo (34), an uMgungundlovu councillor and the Moses Mabhida region’s Youth League regional deputy secretary, died in hospital after being shot at his home in Mpophomeni, Howick.The murder brings to 12 the number of ANC members from the party’s Moses Mabhida region killed since the middle of last year. According to neighbours in Mpophomeni’s Japan section, Mhlongo was shot after he responded to a knock on the door at about 2 am yesterday morning. “He initially ignored the knock, but when the two men shouted that they were policemen and would kick down the door if he did not open he woke up and opened the door,” a neighbour said.Mhlongo was shot several times and died later at the Hilton private hospital.Addressing mourners outside Mhlongo’s home on Thursday, Dlungwane pointed a finger at “forces” bent on creating “instability”.“It is now becoming clear that elements who stand to benefit should our region and the province be plunged into violence are behind these violent acts.“They want to cause enough provocation to spark the kind of retaliation that can eventually plunge the province into instability,” he said. The killing of Mhlongo and other ANC leaders in recent months takes place amid escalating tensions between the party’s factions in the region.On Monday Mhlongo had addressed a press briefing at the scene of the killing of former ANC Ward 7 leader Lungisani Mnguni, who was gunned down in Enkanyezeni, Camperdown. At that briefing Mhlongo spoke out against those behind the assassinations of ANC leaders in the province.The ANCYL leader’s family believes his killing was linked to statements he had made during Monday’s press briefing.“He was well loved within the ANC and did not have enemies within the party. The problem started when he appeared on television speaking out against those [who are] killing ANC leaders,” said Mzo Maphumulo, who is Mhlongo’s brother.At the briefing, Mhlongo told the media that the ANCYL believed the killings in the province were linked to the current ANC succession battle. This has pitted supporters of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the party leadership against those of her chief rival, Cyril Ramaphosa. Mhlongo was known to be a Dlamini-Zuma supporter.“As a family we have no doubt that his killing has something to do with what is currently taking place within the ANC,” Maphumulo said.Mhlongo’s brother said the family had in recent months been concerned about his safety.“Given what is currently happening within the ANC, any person who has a family member who is as active in the party as Sthe was would be concerned.“However, there was not much we could have done as he was passionate about politics — he lived and breathed the ANC,” he said.Violence monitor Mary de Haas said that it was difficult to pinpoint the motive for the killings currently taking place within the ANC, but access to government resources was a common denominator.“This whole thing about factions is also about corruption and access to government resources. “People want their candidate to win so that they are able to access government resources — hence the intensity of the rivalry. “One thing that is clear is that the killings are not about to stop,” she said. Mhlongo is survived by his wife and child.ANC leaders including Dlungwane and ANC Moses Mabhida regional secretary Mzi Zuma visited Mhlongo’s home during on Thursday.