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Durban - Fear has gripped residents of the politically volatile town of Wembezi near Estcourt after the murder of two ANC representatives.
A third woman, Masi Mbhele, who survived Tuesday night’s shootings, has gone into hiding after being discharged from hospital on Thursday.
Mbhele was an ANC party agent in the recent general elections. Her companions - Msawenkosi Nkosi and Nombuso Mabaso – were killed.
Mabaso was also a party agent.
Local Ward 3 councillor, Siphamandla Magubane, said ANC leadership in the area had decided to remove Mbhele from her Emahhashini home to safeguard her.
“We all know each other here so until the law has taken its course she is not safe at home.”
Three men, aged between 32 and 40, were arrested for the shootings on the same night.
The NFP’s Bhekithemba Dlamini, deputy mayor of the uMtshezi Municipality under which the township falls, confirmed the trio were NFP members, not office bearers.
He said the police seemed to home in on NFP members whenever a member of the ANC was killed or attacked.
Dlamini disputed that the shooting had taken place in the town’s C-Section, saying it had happened across the highway that divides the NFP’s stronghold in C-Section and the rest of Wembezi.
Earlier on Thursday, residents from C-Section protested outside the Wembezi police station, saying they were unhappy with the arrests of the NFP members.
“We have evidence that it was not them,” said Sizwe Mchunu, one of the leaders of the protest.
“There are people who can testify that these guys were with them at the time of the shooting, but because we are NFP members, police will not listen to us.”
Mchunu said the protesters had to turn back in fear of their lives after police came out with “guns blazing”.
However, uMtshezi mayor, Bongani Dlamini, who is also ANC chairman in the Ukhahlamba region, berated the protesters, saying burning tyres and blockading roads did not solve anything.
He called on protesters to follow the correct procedures if they believed they had evidence that the suspects had been wrongfully accused.
Dlamini expressed concern that the shootings would fuel more violence in an area flagged as a hot spot for political intolerance.
“It is highly disappointing. The deployment of extra police and the five-a-side engagements have been making some meaningful progress, but the leadership now needs to filter the message of peace to its membership,” he said.
Dlamini called for more serious intervention to bring an end to the violence.
Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu, who visited the troubled area on Thursday, said a lasting solution would emerge once there was willingness from those parties involved in the conflict.
Mchunu said efforts were being made to bring all political players in the area together to bring about lasting peace.
The MEC said he would get a police report into the shootings and would look at ways of minimising the conflict.
Regarding the protest, department spokesman, Sipho Khumalo, said the MEC was not aware of it, but was concerned about the alleged bias shown by police.
Mchunu had also planned to visit the families of the victims, including relatives of Nombuso Mabaso.
The family of the 28-year-old woman were busy on Thursday preparing for her funeral on Sunday.
One of the relatives who went to comfort them was Mabaso’s aunt, Getty Mvelase. It was her son, Mmeli Mvelase, who had rallied his cousin to join the ANC and together they had worn their party colours without fear, she said. Mmeli was killed in October, gunned down in a similar way as Mabaso.
“What is it exactly that our children are dying for? What is the cause of the fighting?” asked Mvelase.
Mabaso’s sister, Bongekile, could not hold back her tears as she spoke of her younger sibling.
“I’m hurting and still don’t believe she is gone,” she said.
“After Mmeli was killed, we had sleepless nights wondering who was next. We heard there was a hit list and since the head (Mmeli) was gone we were next.”
Although Bongekile fears for her own life, her heart breaks for her sister’s daughter, Amahle, 5.
“When she sees cameras she says she wants to stand in front so her mother can see her when she comes back,” said Bongekile.
“How do I tell her her mother is not ever coming back?”
The men accused of the two murders, as well as the attempted murder of Mbhele, were expected to appear in court on Friday.