The killing of Winnie "Nu" Mhlongo on her 30th birthday in Kwadukuza has underscored the province's political intolerance and its resultant violence.
When KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu visited the family of deceased ANC volunteer Winnie “Nu” Mhlongo in Lindelani, KwaDukuza, on Thursday afternoon, he said he hoped that KwaZulu-Natal would host a peaceful election, just like those in many other provinces had been. He said it was untrue, as rumour had it, that people had died in the Glebelands and KwaMashu hostels, saying only one person had been injured in in Glebelands on voting day.
That Mchunu would want to crush rumours of violence in other hot spots while admitting to its existence in others only serves to tell us only what we already know: that the culture of violence in KwaZulu-Natal is difficult to eradicate because it has deep historical foundations. People have thrown up different numbers on the subject, with policing researcher David Bruce saying over 100 people have been killed for political reasons since 2003.
Residents of Lindelani (not to be confused with its namesake near KwaMashu) said they had been living under a situation of severe political intolerance pretty much since the settlement was established in the eighties. The interviewed residents, all speaking anonymously fearing reprisals, said violence in the township was not uncommon during election season. One woman said she joined the ANC a while ago but could not vote for the party in the local government elections because “there was too much intimidation to make a free choice”.
She said voters were told to ask for assistance at voting stations and to pretend to be illiterate so that electoral commission staff could come forward to ensure that the voter’s “wishes” were adhered to. The woman said she and others first helped to uphold this system for years, first by choice, and then when its brutality got the better of her conscience, had sought to be a part in its demise. People said a lot of changes occurred in this neighbourhood, especially with the delivery of houses, but the culture of warlordism remained unacceptably high.
On Wednesday, when Mhlongo died, witnesses said a police van standing guard had left when the voting finished, which was shortly before the incident took place. A crowd of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) supporters had allegedly set off from an IFP councillor’s house singing and marching jubilantly. It travelled down the road and then towards the hall where the voting took place, passing the ANC marquee outside the voting station. A man who was at the marquee said the crowd, numbering “between 50 and 100” deliberated for a few minutes, then marched back singing towards the ANC marquee where a man did some kind of a spinning move before firing a shot that killed Mhlongo.
‘The only ones who can help’
Residents say they heard one shot but discovered two chest wounds on her, as if she had been shot by a double-barrel shotgun. The crowd marched on in the direction they had come from. Several of her comrades said it was her 30th birthday. IFP deputy national spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko said he did not have information about the incident and that he did not have any contacts for party members in KwaDukuza. “I think the people of KwaDukuza are the only ones who can help you as far as that incident was concerned,” said Mazibuko.
A trip to ward councillor Jabulani Sibiya’s house yielded no response and the number listed for him in the ward councillor’s roll was off.
ANC national executive committee member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma urged the residents of Lindelani not to retaliate but to let the law take its course.