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The killing of yet another councillor in KwaZulu-Natal just days after an intervention by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has again cast a spotlight on political tensions in the province.
ANC councillor Jimmy Lembede, 40, was gunned down at his home in Estcourt on Friday night, during an attack which left his wife and two young children injured.
Lembede’s killers have not been arrested, but the killing was widely seen as politically motivated.
Kwanele Ncalane, the spokesman for the Community Safety Department in KZN, said politics could not be ruled out as a possible motive, given Estcourt’s history of political instability.
Ncalane said the area remained “very problematic”.
“This is the area where we have had a number of interventions, including even holding a multiparty rally because we had identified it as one of the hot spots,” Ncalane said.
Lembede’s murder came in the week in which Mthethwa met leaders of various parties in an attempt to curb political violence.
This was after the provincial government urged support from the national government, sparked by fears that KZN could descend into political violence after a string of what is believed to be politically motivated killings in the province.
The KZN government revealed that 32 politically motivated murders had been reported in the province in the past four years.
This prompted Mthethwa to announce a high-level task team that would probe such killings.
Lembede is the second ANC councillor to be murdered this year, after the high-profile killing of Wandile Mkhize of the Hibiscus Coast municipality.
Mkhize was gunned down outside his home in June after returning from the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg.
Premier Zweli Mkhize recently warned that the province would need to rid itself of contract killers if it wanted to put a stop to such killings.
Lembede’s daughter, Buhle, said the family was in the dark about reasons for the murder.
“Before the incident my father had not received any threats or anything like that and we did not know of any enemies that he might have had. The only incident worth noting is that there have been protests in the ward by some community members who wanted positions at the local municipality.”
The distraught 20-year-old said her 35-year-old mother, Tholakele, and 11-year-old brother, Nzuzo, were in a critical condition in hospital while Ntando, Lembede’s five-year-old daughter, was in a more stable condition.
Tholakele and Ntando were shot during the attack, while Nzuzo was burnt by cooking oil.
Buhle said she had not been home at the time, “but somebody who was there said the men who carried out the attack were not known to the family”.
The ANC provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said the party was saddened by the murder and urged the public to volunteer information that could help police catch the killers.
Meanwhile, two suspects have been arrested in connection with the killing of New Freedom Party member, Mthunzi Gwala, last month.
Gwala, 32, was shot in the head four times in the notorious T section in Umlazi.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said the suspects, brothers aged 29 and 32, were arrested on Friday by members of the Durban organised crime unit.
He said police called at the suspects’ room in T section at about 2am on Friday and arrested them.
Zwane stressed that the motives for the killings were unknown to the SAPS.
The NFP’s national secretary-general, Professor Nhlanhla Khubisa, applauded the arrests and called for police to also arrest the killers of Thami Mnyango, 22, who was killed in similar fashion a week later.
“We have always said as a party that we would co-operate with the police and allow them to carry out their duties, and we welcome the arrest of the two suspects regarding the brutal killing of Mthunzi Gwala,” he said.