Durban — Religious leaders in KwaZulu-Natal say they are concerned about the violence in the province and have appealed to the government to take strong action to avoid any loss of life in the build-up to the elections. Their concern comes at a time when another councillor has been killed.
Ndukenhle Duma, an IFP councillor, was attacked and killed in Mtubatuba. He was elected following by-elections in one of the wards in the Nongoma Municipality a few months ago. IFP chairperson Thami Ntuli described Duma’s killing as brutal and unfortunate.
“It’s a very unfortunate one since we are preparing for the elections and we thought we are going to pass this period where politicians become targets of these kind of assassinations,” said the IFP’s KZN premier candidate.
Last month, religious leaders compiled a report highlighting instances in which elected public representatives, traditional leaders and officials were killed.
Faith-based and civil society organisations involved in peace monitoring and election observation, including the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, the KwaZulu-Natal Church Leaders Group and the Election Monitoring Network, noted in the report that intervention and leadership were needed to address the problem.
“We have seen the re-emergence of oncedormant political tensions militating against free and fair elections nationwide … (following) the November 2021 local government elections, which were overshadowed by unusual trends of political killings of a high number of election candidates and party supporters,” read the report.
It noted data collected from KZN and municipalities in other provinces which showed that out of 60 councillors who had died since January 2021, 28 were assassinated.
“The atrocities committed by perpetrators of political violence – many of whom remain … not prosecuted – are unconscionable and depraved, and the disruption of family life and peace in communities is abhorrent. Our calls for their arrest, prosecution and imprisonment are urgent and justified,” it said.
The report also called for the Electoral Commission of South Africa to deliver free and fair elections, and for peace and tolerance to prevail during the election period.
It called on citizens to critically engage with election manifestos and candidates, to ensure that only those who espoused shared values were elected.
It also called on politicians to observe and comply with the electoral code of conduct and the country’s laws.
It said that if the above issues were addressed, there was a greater prospect for peaceful elections.
The report was clear on the role that political parties and their leaders should play.
“For a start, politicians must stop combative utterances and besmirching opponents who have decided to disassociate from their traditional political homes, choosing to contest these elections as either independents or members of new parties.”
Violence monitor Mary de Haas said she agreed with the fears expressed by religious leaders, who cited inadequate security structures as a source of worry building up to the elections. She said while there was an apparent increase in the number of political figures who were killed, it was equally important to investigate cases before labelling them as political killings.
“There are instances where politicians have interests in the taxi industry, mining operations and other business activities and get killed for that, so unless there is overwhelming evidence pointing to a political motive we should guard against that,” she cautioned.
De Haas noted that primarily rural people were in great danger of being killed because police stations were not easily accessible, and the police’s crime intelligence division was not doing sufficient work to flush out the criminals.