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TENSIONS are running high in Newcastle's Amajuba district municipality after the killing of councillor Thenjiwe Veronica Buthelezi yesterday morning.
Buthelezi was a member of the Federal Congress (FC), a political party formed after councillors defected from the embattled National Democratic Convention.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Phindile Radebe said: "In the early hours of the morning, a Madadeni councillor was gunned down in her home by unknown assailants.
"According to neighbours they heard gunshots go off at the councillor's house in Section B, Osizweni. It was at 7 in the morning. They then saw two men fleeing from the house, one of whom was carrying a pistol.
"Councillor Thenjiwe Buthelezi, 66, who was alone in her home, was found in her lounge with four gunshot wounds to her head and neck."
Radebe said the police found four spent 9mm cartridges on the crime scene.
"Members of the provincial political violence task team under the command of Senior Superintendent Simon Madonsela will be investigating the murder.
"Members from the public order policing unit will also be deployed in the area. At this stage the motive for the killing remains unknown.
"Any person who may have any information that may assist in the investigation is requested to contact Crime Stop on 086-001-0111. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence."
Newcastle mayor Afzul Rehman has blamed the on-going power struggle between the ANC and IFP over the control of Amajuba district municipality for the slaying.
"I suspect that her death is politically motivated. On Friday, the Amajuba district had a meeting and the matter is now heading for court," Rehman said.
"Buthelezi was at the centre of this power struggle and her party was going to play a major role in changing the control of the municipality and now she is dead. This is really unacceptable. But we call on residents to remain calm."
Acting provincial premier and MEC for community safety and liaison Willies Mchunu condemned the killing.
"We seem to be experiencing the same trend that happened in Umvoti where councillors were killed and we view this seriously.
"I have spoken to the Provincial Police Commissioner Mamonye Ngobeni to institute an investigation into this and hope that the culprits would be arrested."
Tensions have been rife in the district over who should be in control after the ANC won the by-elections.
The ANC had previously called on the current mayor, Mkhulu Mlangeni, to resign since the IFP was no longer a majority, but the IFP did not react.