KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube. File picture: Mandla Mkhize

Durban – An ANC councillor was gunned down in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday evening, bringing the death toll of municipal officials in the area to three for the year.

“Councillor Sfiso Mkhize of Richmond's ward two was killed in a hail of bullets today while on his way home,” Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said in statement released in the early hours of Friday morning.
 
“This is an extremely difficult time for the fraternity of local government as we mourn yet another loss of a public representative at the hands of cold-blooded assassins who have no respect for human life. 
 
“Incidents such as this callous murder are a wrenching reminder of the great sacrifices and risks that councillors make by choosing to be servants of the people”, said Dube-Ncube.
 
Government and political leaders would not be deterred by the incident, she said. “We must all come together to keep pressure on the criminals in our society who create an atmosphere of fear through the murder of local government representatives.”
 
She urged law enforcement agencies to investigate the killing without delay and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
 
ANC provincial spokesperson, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said Mkhize had also served as chairperson of the Community Police Forum and was “a dependable champion of peace in his ward and Richmond in general”.
 
In March, Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole was gunned down when he was travelling in the town without his bodyguards. Sithole was known to be taking a stand against corruption within the municipality.
 
Weeks later, the town’s deputy mayor, Thandazile Phoswa, was found dead at her home with a gunshot wound to the head. Police said they ruled out political motivation in Phoswa’s death, with it being ascribed to a presumed lovers’ quarrel, although that has been disputed within the community.
 
On an official visit to KwaZulu-Natal last month, police minister Fikile Mbalula said that 33 political killings that had taken place in the province since January 2016 were being investigated. He said the province’s provincial task team dealing with the cases would be augmented to include additional Hawks members and the national detective services.
 
In October last year, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu established the Marumo Commission. Lead by advocate Marumo Moerane, the commission was tasked with investigating the province’s political killings since 2011.
 
Ntuli said in a statement: "We sincerely convey our deepest condolences to the family, friends and relatives of comrade Sifiso for such a tragic and painful lost of life. 
"We call on the Law Enforcement Agencies to act with the necessary speed in dealing with the scourge of killings in our province," Ntuli added. "We sincerely hope that the perpetrators who have no respect and act with complete disdain towards human life will, one day, be caught and face the mighty (sic) of the law. This lost (sic) is real tragic and painful, not only to the family, but the movement as whole."

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was "deeply concerned at the destabilising of the Richmond municipality due to ANC factionalism".

"This latest heinous crime comes only a few months after the killing of Richmond municipal manager, Sibusiso Sithole, which still remains unsolved," DA UMgungundlovu East constituency head Dean Macpherson said.

"The residents of Richmond should not have to be the ultimate bearers of ANC factionalism as their Municipality's leaders live in constant fear, unable to do their work."