Spike in political killings in KZN raises concerns among residents

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Nineteen councillors have lost their lives in KwaZulu-Natal in the past eleven months. In Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal, several National Freedom Party (NFP) councillors have been killed while others have survived attacks but have been forced to go into hiding.

The Nongoma Municipality is run by an ANC, EFF, NFP coalition that unseated the IFP earlier this year, through a vote of no-confidence. In this area, the NFP has seen attacks on their councillors. Last month, Ntombenhle Mchunu was assassinated. Her grandchild, who was severely injured during the shooting, was left wheelchair bound. In another incident, the NFP councillor in Ward 4 in the Nongoma Municipality, Mphathiseni Manqele survived an attack but sustained gunshot wounds. He is still recovering in hospital.

Some NFP councillors in the area have been forced to flee their homes. In at least three separate attacks, Nongoma Municipality Ward 14 councillor Nonhlanhla Zungu and her son was shot at. Her niece was also kidnapped, beaten, and dumped on the roadside. Her attackers demanded to know Zungu’s whereabouts. She believes the attack on NFP councillors is linked to a power struggle at the local municipality.

“My appeal is that government intervenes by ensuring that even if we are killed as councillors from the NFP but our party remains in power in Nongoma Municipality, like they have killed councillor Mchunu, I also feel that they will kill me soon, as they have also managed to shoot councillor Manqele who is fighting for his life in hospital. If they can kill maybe five of us, the municipality will have 19 councillors, I believe the attack directed to me is linked to the municipality. I serve in both Nongoma and also at the Zululand district municipality, if they kill me they know NFP has lost in both these municipalities,” says Zungu.

Zungu adds that the infighting within the NFP has made the party an easy target.

“As NFP councillors, we are attacked because people know should we lose a councillor due to our infighting at the moment we cannot replace the councillors at the IEC. We are unable to submit who are the leaders of the NFP at the IEC, the impact of our infightings is costing us dearly, we are unable to replace councillors who have either died or resigned, we cannot even contest by-elections. I am still receiving threats. Yesterday we got a message with my husband telling us not to leave our home because there are people waiting to attack us, this really hurts me especially as a woman I am forced to flee my own home leave my children and husband behind,” Zungu reiterates.

Locals say the killing of councillors is hampering service delivery.

“The attack on councillors really disturb service delivery, we are not getting anything from our councillors even if we want to engage them, but they have to flee to safety after being attacked,” a community member explains.

“The killing of councillors of late is rife, we are even scared of coming to our councillor, we are not sure they might be attacked while holding a meeting. The situation is tense, there is no development,” another community member says.

“These senseless killings have disturbed service delivery because if they continue killing councillors how are we as the community supposed to get service delivery,” a community member elaborates.

Traditional leaders are equally concerned. Elliot Zungu is appealing to government to deploy more police officers to Nongoma.

“The entire community is saddened by these killings, we are all living in fear, even if you are walking you are not free because you do not know when you will be shot. When the sun sets, we quickly get inside our home but that does not help much as killers sometimes attack people at their homes, police must arrest criminals. We appeal to government to add police here in our area, we are not satisfied how our local police works. Maybe government need to rotate police and bring officers from outside this area to ensure our safety,” says Zungu.

The NFP has been suspended from contesting elections pending the outcome of a leadership dispute. This means once a seat held by the NFP in municipal council becomes vacant, it’s up for grabs for any other party that can contest the elections. The party has 53 councillors in KwaZulu-Natal.