File picture: Independent Media

Durban - The Inkatha Freedom Party has urged communities to protect their political leaders, and offered condolences on the death of African National Congress Richmond town councillor Sfiso Mkhize who was shot dead by unknown assailants on Thursday night.

Mkhize is is the third political figure to be killed in the violence-ravaged region in the past few months. Deputy mayor Thandazile Phoswa was killed in April and municipal manager S’bu Sithole was shot dead a month before.

"The Inkatha Freedom Party calls on all communities to stand up and play a vital role in protecting their public representatives, especially municipal councillors, following the killing of another Richmond ward councillor Sfiso Mkhize, who was killed in a hail of bullets on Thursday evening while on his way home," IFP KwaZulu-Natal MPL Princess Buthelezi said on Saturday.

It was high time now that community members broke their silence about the killings of public representatives. It did not matter which party the public representative belonged to. All of them needed protection, she said.

Community members should now be open about what they knew about the killing of councillors. They should tell police who owned illegal guns "that are out there to kill people". "In order to improve public safety, we need to do more to ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws and make sure that criminals and other prohibited persons cannot get their hands on lost or stolen weapons,” Buthelezi said.

“Gun violence has taken a heart-breaking toll on too many communities across the country. We call for an increase in gun control measures to prevent the flood of guns into KwaZulu-Natal. KwaZulu-Natal is bleeding and it’s our citizens who are  affected the most. We must come together as a community to put a stop to this violence.

"If you know someone with an illegal gun call the police so that they can remove as many of them from the street as possible. Too many times we have to console family members who have lost their loved ones to gun violence. It must come to an end," she said.

“Communities know who the criminals are in their midst. Let us put an end to protecting these criminals. The fight against crime requires the help and support of every South African. It is no longer good enough to look away or to assume that crime is someone else’s problem. The reality is that criminals can only thrive in communities where their actions are tolerated. All of us should channel our anger into action, we dare not let crime thrive. However, this should not translate into vigilantism and lawlessness. The IFP would like to send its deepest condolences to [the] Mkhize family and friends," Buthelezi said.