'We shouldn't become Colombia where politicians are killed daily,' says Salga

Salga chairperson Thami Ntuli addressed media on political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
Salga chairperson Thami Ntuli addressed media on political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Mfundo Mkhize

More than 19 town councillors have been assassinated in KwaZulu-Natal since the November 2021 local government elections.

This is according to South African Local Government Association (Salga) chairperson Thami Ntuli, who has called for political tolerance before the national and provincial elections later this year.

“What is increasing in our province is the heavily contested political terrain coupled with a terrible history. What is also not helping is our politicians are using inflammatory remarks during the campaigns instead of sticking to political diplomacy while wooing voters,” said Ntuli.

Last week, councillor Ndukwenhle Duma was shot dead while changing a car tyre on the R618 in Mtubatuba on his way to a municipal meeting in Hluhluwe in northern KZN.

The incident also claimed the life of a five-year-old child caught in the crossfire. Two other children are fighting for their lives in hospital.

Ntuli said 17 councillors died of natural causes, three in car accidents and two by suicide.

While the killings have largely affected the ANC, IFP and the NFP, the DA's Nhlalayenza Ndlovu was ambushed and killed at his home in Mpophomeni late last year.

Ntuli cited bureaucratic processes as one hindrance to stemming political killings.

“As Salga, we want recommendations made which allow municipalities to provide security to councillors before a police risk assessment is complete. It takes decades to get protection for councillors.”

He cited the example of Mkhambathini municipality councillor Mzwandile Shandu who was killed in uMlazi while a risk assessment was under way. Before that, Shandu allegedly survived several botched assassinations.

Killing politicians is a lucrative business
Thami Ntuli, Salga chair

“Political parties ought to educate the public on acceptance of democratic outcomes. Being a councillor [needs] no minimum requirements and it becomes easy for a person to mobilise support. But if they are unsuccessful, they usually plan and plot killings,” he said.

He cautioned against degeneration into a nation where political intolerance is rife.

“We are concerned about the incidents of the past few weeks and something should be done by the police and those who are in power to arrest the situation. If we fail in this, we would become a country such as Colombia where politicians are killed every day.”

The killing of induna Lucia Nonina Mahlaba of the Shabalala traditional council in eMadlangeni (formerly Utrecht) in the north of the province and family members was cause for concern, said Ntuli.

“The brazenness of the criminals who killed them shows they knew there would not be consequences.”

None of the perpetrators have been arrested, he added.

“What is worrying is it is almost a month since the four people were killed and not one person has been arrested. In countries where law enforcement officers are effective, this case would have been cracked long ago.”

In Duma’s case, Ntuli said he was ambushed while travelling alone, an indication that his killers had been monitoring him. “This means killing politicians is a lucrative business.”

In the aftermath of the 2021 local government elections, the province recorded a number of political arrests, with some now before the courts while the rest had become cold cases

Police should also focus on arresting the masterminds, he said.

While not aware of calls made by the National Prosecuting Authority for special courts to deal with political crimes, Ntuli said extraordinary efforts would be welcomed.

“We should try by all means to mitigate this so that fear is not instilled in citizens.”

The killings were an attack on the democratic system to weaken it and render it ineffective.


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