The body count continued to rise last week with the death of former secretary-general of the ANC Youth League, Sindiso Magaqa, who on Monday died in a Durban hospital where he had been receiving treatment for gunshot wounds he sustained in an assassination attempt in July.
This happened as the Moerane Commission of Inquiry is listening to evidence on political killings, and while a high-profile investigative task team has yet to report any progress in most of the cases.
At least 20 political figures, mainly councillors, have been killed in the province since last year.
The Mercury sent an email to the Hawks asking for an update on investigations into these murders, but none had been provided by the time of publication.
The ANC in the province has said it believes the killings could be the result of “sponsored violence” akin to that experienced in the 1980s, which meant to use KwaZulu-Natal as an “entry point” for destabilising the whole country.
ANC KZN secretary Super Zuma said such possibilities would be investigated by one of the two task teams established by the provincial leadership. The other task team would focus on political education.
Zuma said the ANC was not conclusively saying there was a third force element, but it wanted that possibility to be investigated.
However, violence monitor Vanessa Burger rejected the claims, saying talk of a third force was just a smokescreen.
“What ‘external’ elements would want to destabilise South Africa, starting with KZN, when our own political leaders have done an excellent job of that already The ANC is eating itself, and anyone who interrupts the feeding frenzy in KZN gets a bullet,” said Burger.
Lizette Lancaster, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said political killings should not be looked at in isolation from how South Africans generally dealt with conflict.
“There is clearly a culture among some people to get rid of opponents, often for political reasons.”
Lancaster said that with good crime intelligence on the ground it would not be difficult to identify the perpetrators of the violence.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said the police would be beefing up measures already in place to deal with the violence.
An integrated Provincial Project Task Team consisting of the Hawks, the Detective Service, Crime Intelligence, the Local Criminal Record Centre and the National Prosecuting Authority was announced by Mbalula in May to deal with political killings.
Members of the Public Order Policing Unit, the Tactical Response Team, the National Intervention Unit and Visible Policing were also deployed in some hot spots.
“We are working hard to follow the leads and the arrests of some of the perpetrators of the violence, to clean them out of the province,” Mbalula said.
He said the key to rooting out violence was an intelligence network that had the capacity to deal with the murders.
Some families of those who were murdered have appealed for justice.
The widow of Bongani Skhosana, an ANC ward candidate in uMuziwabantu municipality who was killed in July last year, said a suspect had been arrested but there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
The mother of three said that a year after the murder, it was difficult to raise her young children.
“It pains me that I have to raise my children alone; my husband was a loving father, he was shot dead in cold blood and the law has done nothing to give us answers.
“Without him, emotionally and financially we are struggling,” she said.
She added that she had lost hope that justice would be served as “political killings continue and no murderer goes to jail”.