The murder of Richmond municipality’s deputy mayor, Thandazile Phoswa, reignited fears that the community was on a precipice that could tip over into political turmoil. Picture: Supplied
Durban - Murdering politicians as soon as they step up to the plate has had a lasting impact on children in Richmond, where another leader was killed this week.

So says Linda Naidoo, a former director of KZN Childline, who urges dialogue for the community to heal old wounds and break the cycle of violence.

“If we want to create a non-violent, non-racial society, such talks are needed. Children are vulnerable and learn behaviour from adults.

Naidoo said Richmond was no different from other conflict zones where violence trapped a community and the youth became despondent.

“Most of the children in a community like this would have been exposed to a high level of violence,” Naidoo said.

Richmond is about 38km south-west of Pietermaritzburg. The community depends on timber, poultry, citrus and dairy farms for employment.

The murder of Richmond municipality’s deputy mayor, Thandazile Phoswa, last week reignited fears that the community was on a precipice that could tip over into political turmoil.

Although police said her death was not politically motivated, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion after the town’s municipal manager, Sibusiso Sithole, was shot dead last month.

Over the years, Richmond has been the scene of a spate of politically-motivated violence.

In 2013 councillors came under fire from residents: Speaker Thulani Shabalala escaped a mob attack at his home that August and mayor Andrew Ragavaloo’s home was shot at in July of that year.

In October 2015, 41-year-old Mthulisi Ngcobo, the municipality’s head of security, was shot dead outside his house in Ndaleni Slahla.

Phoswa’s neighbour, Bhalane Mkhize, 68, said the killings brought back bad memories of the 1990s, when four villages - Phatheni, Smozomeni, Ndaleni and Magoda - were no-go zones. Magoda was home to Sifiso Nkabinde, a firebrand leader of the United Democratic Movement, who died in political violence.

Bhalane Mkhize fears political violence could return to haunt the Richmond community. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane/ANA Pictures

“We are slowly sliding back into that political reign of terror. Our plea is that police must do what they are mandated to do and protect us. We do not want our sad history to repeat itself,” Mkhize said.

“The area was in a state of emergency for months during the political transition. We had ruthless soldiers stationed at certain points. There was a curfew and soldiers would beat up people found loitering. Police choppers hovered above our homes searching for arms, and ringleaders were arrested; others were killed. A number of innocent people lost their lives,” he said.

“We want politicians to concentrate on developing our area and to stop fighting for power.”

Another concerned resident, Thembisile Zondi, 43, said the recurrence of the killings was frightening and reminded her of a time when they had to flee their homes and spend days hiding in the bush.

“People died at an alarming rate during the wave of political violence.

“They fought for control of the territory to gain support and power to enhance their ideologies. It was mayhem,” she said.

“There were rumours that the defence force and police had been sponsoring a certain faction with heavy weapons. Villages were literally on fire with the houses of suspected spies burnt to ashes. One did not know who to trust.

“Our communities are still struggling to come to terms with the violence and we do not want to be terrified again,” Zondi said.

Sibusiso Kheswa, 37, shared their sentiments. “When the political violence broke out between the UDM and ANC, I had to relocate to relatives living far away, which meant I had to drop out of school. Nobody could risk their life by going to school. I had no choice but to join others fighting for freedom, but it soon became an illusion. Look at us, we have nothing to show,” he said.

Kheswa, who is unemployed, said he was frustrated and spent his time at the tavern playing pool.

“There are no decent jobs. The youth have lost faith in the whole capitalist system. Unemployment is rife; those lucky to be working on the farms earn next to nothing,” Kheswa said.

[email protected]

Sunday Tribune