Durban - The South African Police Service (SAPS) political violence task team is investigating the murders of a prominent KwaZulu-Natal African National Congress activist and an Inkatha Freedom Party municipal councillor who were shot dead in two separate incidents on Friday night, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

“We strongly condemn the latest attacks last night [Friday] in Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi where two people were ambushed by unknown suspects who fatally shot them. Both dockets have been assigned to the political violence task team that will investigate further," acting KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Maj-Gen Bheki Langa said on Saturday.

He appealed to the community to remain calm and also to share any information with the SAPS that could lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators. The motive for both attacks were still unknown, Langa said.

Read: KwaZulu-Natal ANC and IFP members shot dead in separate incidents

On Friday night at about 6.40pm, on the R66 King Dinuzulu Highway, Ulundi, IFP PR councillor and Zululand district chairman Sibuyiselo Dlamini, 35, "was driving his vehicle, crossing a set of robots, when his vehicle was blocked by unknown suspects who opened fire at him. He sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was declared dead at the scene".

In the second shooting, at about 7pm on Friday night in the Pata area, Pietermaritzburg, Musawenkosi Maqatha Mchunu, 45, was driving his vehicle turning into his driveway when he was ambushed by unknown suspects who fired several shots at him. He was shot multiple times and was rushed to hospital where he later succumbed to his wounds, Langa said.

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) denounced the killings and reiterated its call for redoubled efforts to unmask those behind the spate of political assassinations. Sanco spokesman Jabu Mahlangu appealed for calm and conveyed condolences the families of the two men.

The national crime prevention strategy should be reviewed so that adequate resources were deployed to match the escalating senseless violence that had the potential to sow discontent and destablise the region, Mahlangu said.

"A reconfigured permanent unit to mount relentless pursuit of the masterminds behind the cowardly killing, including the heartless killers carrying out the heinous and horrendous acts, needs to be urgently established to tackle the scourge before more lives are lost in the run-up to the 2019 elections ," he said.

Democratic Alliance KwaZulu-Natal leader Zwakele Mncwango also offered the DA's deepest condolences to the families of the deceased. "We are concerned that in the past 24 hours there has been bloodshed in this province, with a history of violence and murder."

The DA called on security agencies to work around the clock to find the culprits "who are determined to bring political instability in this province. The DA joins both the IFP and the ANC in mourning the loss of its members", Mncwango said.

Earlier on Saturday, Mike Mabuyakhulu, convenor of the ANC’s provincial task team (interim leadership) in the province, told the African News Agency (ANA) that Mchunu's murder was “cold blooded”. 

"Mchunu was very active and vocal about his concerns about circumstances leading up to regional conferences in the province. He was one of the people who had convened a press conference in Margate this week to express concerns,” said Mabuyakhulu.

Disgruntled members from divided ANC regions, including the lower South Coast, Moses Mabhida, Harry Gwala, Abaqulusi, and eThekwini held the press conference at the Margate Hotel.

The factions are aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa and are adamant that the party’s provincial conference - tentatively set for the end of this month - should not proceed until issues about selective membership and "gatekeeping" are resolved. Regional conferences are currently being held throughout the province to prepare members for the provincial conference, where the new leadership will be elected.

The Ramaphosa faction believes their members are being kept from participating in party processes in order to bolster the numbers of the larger faction in the province, which supports Sihle Zikalala, at the provincial conference. Zikalala is the co-ordinator of the provincial task team, and he and Mabuyakhulu have been tasked with leading the party to ready itself for the provincial conference.

IFP KwaZulu-Natal MPL and deputy national spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko told ANA that Dlamini’s murder came on the eve of the party’s national council meeting, which would be held on Saturday and Sunday, and focus on issues of readiness for its national conference.

“I don’t want to speculate about the motive for the murder, but as the IFP we would like to urge the police to act swiftly,” he said. He was shocked by the killing as he knew Dlamini personally and was expecting to see him at the conference.

The latest murders bring the number of alleged political killings of members of different political parties to well over 80 since 2011, when added to figures presented by the ANC at the Moerane Commission of inquiry last year.

Independent researcher and KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas has placed the figure as high as 104 over the same period. When 2018 murders that are thought to be politically motivated are added to her figures, the number sits at around 110.

African News Agency/ANA