File picture: Phill Magakoe/ANA Pictures

Durban – KwaZulu-Natal MEC for community safety, Mxolisi Kaunda, said on Friday that there was a clandestine campaign in the ANC’s Harry Gwala region that may have led to the shooting of three uMzimkhulu councillors.

“There are elements that are on a clandestine campaign to turn this region into a war zone. Clearly, this attack has the hallmarks of a carefully crafted plan to use intimidation and violence as a way of frustrating the will of the people,” said Kaunda.
 
Kaunda was speaking at a press briefing in uMzimkhulu on Friday afternoon, together with cooperative governance MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
 
On Thursday, at about 6pm, unknown assailants armed with rifles shot and wounded PR councillor Sindiso Magaqa, ward 11 councillor Nonsikelelo Mafa and ward 16 councillor Jabu Mzizi at Ibisi bus stop. 
 
Magaqa was the African National Congress Youth League national secretary general before the league was disbanded in 2012.
 
All three were hospitalised following the attack and are in a critical but stable condition, according to Kaunda.
 
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation's (known as the Hawks) spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said on Friday that a request had been made for security at the hospital and police had been deployed.

Kaunda said that the modus operandi used in the killings was similar to other killings in the region that were thought to be politically motivated. He confirmed that rifles were used in the attack.
 
“The victims sustained serious injuries after the suspects unleashed a hail of bullets at their car. The suspects are still at large. We have asked the police to work around the clock to ensure that perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to book. We are not going to allow the dark forces and assassins roaming the streets of uMzimkhulu to destabilise this district.” 
 
He said that provincial government had noted “with great concern” the increase in attacks on elected representatives.
 
“In the space of four months, two currently serving councillors and a former councillor have been brutally murdered in this municipality. This is a tragic development that threatens to plunge this municipality into chaos and [make it ungovernable]. It is also a direct attack on our democratic institutions and the right of people to elect their public representatives,” he said.
 
Kaunda said that the cause or motive of the killings was unknown, but that killing of councillors was becoming “a disturbing trend”.
 
Several interventions had been put in place, with immediate effect, to curb the spate of killings in the region, he said. This included all cases being handled by the National Police Task Team which is already in the area, increasing police capacity in the area, high level inter and intra political interventions and ongoing engagement with the local community to find lasting solutions.

The province’s citizens were urged to cooperate with the Moerane Commission, tasked with investigating the spate of political killings in the province between 2011 and 2016. The commission resumes on Monday after taking a recess in June.