WRAP: SA needs collective effort to fight political violence

Generic: Photo: Gallo Images
Generic: Photo: Gallo Images

Police‚ civil society and academics have all agreed that political violence needs a collective effort and quality leadership in order to be rooted out of communities.

On Thursday‚ the SA Local Government Association (Salga) held a panel discussion on the killing and intimidation of councillors and municipal managers across the country.

The discussions were part of the launch of a Salga report on a study on the number of killings and the intimidation that councillors experience. The study showed that a total of 43 councillors were killed between 2011 and 2016. The highest number of killings was in KwaZulu-Natal with 22 murders.

 Second in the table was North West with six killings‚ followed by Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape‚ both with four‚ Gauteng‚ Northern Cape and Western Cape all with two and Limpopo with one killing. The Free State had no record of killing during the time of the research.

Salga president Parks Tau lamented the absence of the security cluster during the discussion.

“We invited ministers in the security cluster to be part of the conversation around the killing of councillors. We think it is unfortunate that the ministers have not participated in this discussion. We have certainly been struggling to meet with the security cluster to raise the issues. But we will not tire. We will continue to write to the ministers so that we can officially present the outcomes of this research to the security cluster and have a conversation about it‚” Tau said.

Prof Karl von Holdt of the University of Witwatersrand‚ who has done research into political killings‚ said the violence in society must be tackled from all fronts‚ not just state institutions.

“We have to face the fact that this is a huge problem and it is one that will have to be addressed across numerous sides. It requires a mobilisation of civil society. We need to look if there is a way of mobilising a coalition between the community‚ councillors and Salga around a particular case and say: ‘When is this [case] going to be addressed?’”

 Von Holdt also remarked on the attitude of police on cases involving political killings.

“In one of the case studies we spoke to a police officer and he said this one [murder] is actually a political killing we’re not going to get involved.”

Nombulelo Mogapi‚ director of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation‚ drew the attention of the panel to the dwindling levels of hope in the country.

 “When we [researched] the psychological effects of violence we found that the emotion of hope is so important. Actually when people are losing hope‚ the levels of violence are much more likely to be higher than when there is hope. Currently‚ there is a sense that as South Africa we are losing hope. In the 80s and 90s we had the hope of a South Africa that we wanted to create but now we don’t have a common vision of what is it that we want to create that can mobilise us together. That is a concern and it needs leadership – visionary leadership that is able to compel us towards a hope‚” Mogapi said.

The attacks and threats on councillors‚ their families and assets have caused Salga‚ as the employer body‚ to organise a special insurance for the politicians as the threats continue to rise.

KwaZulu-Natal‚ the province with the highest amount of councillor killings‚ the Moerane Commission is currently looking into political killings‚ which includes councillors who have been murdered in the past few years.