KwaZulu-Natal - People in leadership positions in South Africa are willing to put politics before the value of life, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said on Saturday.
“That is not right. I have knocked on the door of political leaders for decades, calling for reconciliation and a healing of old wounds,” he said at a rally in KwaMashu, an area in KwaZulu-Natal which had been plagued by violence in recent months.
“I have called for peace when all around me were burying our members and supporters. I have urged grieving families not to take up arms in retaliation, for there is no retribution in violence.”
He noted that KwaMashu was under “great duress”.
“You have been living under the shadow of violence for months now and I know that many of you fear for your lives even as you go about your daily business.
“That is not right. That is not the kind of situation that should exist in an established democracy. This is not the eighties. This is not apartheid, and we are no longer suffering a people's war.”
Buthelezi said the media had made a “meal” out of the protest in the area last week Sunday.
“(That was) when the leader of the NFP rolled into town unannounced with her convoy of 30 cars, seeking to campaign for next week's by-election.
“But I have pointed out in the same media that a powder keg has been created in KwaMashu and, under the circumstances, this community should be applauded for its patience.”
Clashes erupted on that day when National Freedom Party leader Zanele KaMagwaza Msibi led her convoy into A-section.
A journalist's car was set alight and several others were pelted with stones.
“Here, in KwaMashu, I have been touched by the resilience of a people under extreme duress. I want to thank you for maintaining peace, for allowing justice to take its course and for assisting the police in their investigations,” Buthelezi said.
“That is not to say that I approve of what happened last Sunday. I wish it had not happened. I have warned people not to raise the temperature.”
He said he had warned people not to brandish weapons “in a show of bravado” as tensions were “so high that anything can go wrong”.
Five people have been killed in the area in recent months.
Earlier this year, IFP councillor Themba Xulu was arrested for allegedly trying to burn down NFP leader Bhungu Gwala's house. This was followed by a shooting in September of Gwala's 21-year-old son.
On October 5, Xulu was abducted from his home in A-section, allegedly by five men posing as police officers.
A day later, a 32-year-old IFP supporter was shot dead outside the Thembalihle railway station in KwaMashu.
The murder took place shortly after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa addressed IFP supporters in an attempt to bring calm to the area.
The next day, Xulu's bullet-riddled body was found on the outskirts of Inanda.
On October 12, Gwala, his two sons, and a bodyguard were arrested for murder.
At their first appearance at the Ntuzuma Magistrate's Court a few days later, IFP supporter Siya Dlamini was shot dead outside the court, in full view of journalists and police.
NFP councillor Mzonjani Zulu was arrested for the murder.
On November 19, IFP supporters allegedly stoned NFP hostels following the release on bail of one of Gwala's sons. Later that night Sihle Biyela, an IFP KwaMashu hostel block leader, was shot dead.
Buthelezi said he had prayed that people would remain calm during the festive season and beyond.
“This community carries a responsibility, but so too do the leaders of political parties,” he said.
“I have come to KwaMashu this afternoon knowing that the NFP will be back to campaign for your vote, and the ANC was here this morning (Saturday).”
He revealed to residents that the ruling African National Congress would be back.
“By the way, the ANC will roll back into town on Monday under the guise of a government initiative. The MEC for Health has invited the Mayor and councillors to an event they have called 'taking services to the people'.
“What this means is that the ANC is using your tax money to come here and tell you to vote for them. That is what they do whenever there is a by-election.” - Sapa