With five leaders killed since November last year, the Inkatha Freedom Party is calling for action on political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, but some think it might be opening a can of worms.
On Friday, IFP spokesperson Velaphi Ndlovu said political attacks have increased since the elections in 2004.
”Five of our leaders have been killed in the last six months, and two attacked. Not a single case has gone to court,” he said.
Prompted by IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s petition to Parliament earlier this month, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele announced a commission of inquiry into violence in the province this week.
Two days later, Prince Thulani Zulu, African National Congress Nongoma branch chairperson, was shot in a drive-by shooting in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi questioned whether the commission will have the desired effect.
”How do you prevent this commission from making findings that apportion blame? It may be a cause of serious tension between the IFP and the ANC,” he said.
Matshiqi said both parties seem to have suddenly made an about-face in their approach to political violence in the province.
”Up until now, the response has tended to be that the killings have not been political. Both sides held that peace and stability would be achieved by reducing political sensitivity, not by pointing fingers.”
Commission of inquiry
Harry Munchu, spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal premier, said Ndebele felt a commission of inquiry was the only way to end the conflict, which has flared up repeatedly in the province since the late 1980s.
”If people don’t get closure on this thing, there will always be the threat of violence. People need to know that you will be punished if found to do wrong.”
Munchu admitted there is a risk a commission might provide the fuel for a spate of retaliatory and revenge attacks.
”But there is a bigger risk if people do not feel authorities are doing anything.”
The IFP’s present insistence on investigation and exposure is very different from the one held in 2003, when the party accused violence expert Mary de Haas of ”refusing to bury the corpse of politically motivated violence”.
At the time, it said she was being ”deliberately alarmist” by assuming the death of a politically aligned personality must be politically motivated.
Asked about this, Ndlovu said the situation has become much more heated in the province since last year’s election, which is why the IFP now feels it should be investigated.
He listed the killings of prominent IFP leaders in recent months:
- on December 1 last year, Nongoma IFP member Langa Ntshangase was shot dead by assailants waiting outside his house;
- on January 21, north Durban’s IFP leader Thomas Shabalala was shot in the head and chest and killed;
- on February 13, Sipho Bengu, mayor of Imbabazane municipality, was shot dead while driving his car, and a week later the IFP chief whip in the municipality, Mandla Mabaso, was also assassinated; and
- earlier in February, IFP youth leader Sithende Mbatha was killed in the Osuthu area.
The ANC has a similar list of attacks and killings.
Besides Zulu, ANC Ladysmith councillor Mangethe Zwane was murdered in January, while another ANC councillor, Msizi Mthembu of Gobandlovu near Esikhawini, was shot but survived.
In each instance, police commented that there was no evidence that the crimes were politically motivated.
Stephen Friedman from the Wits Centre for Policy Studies said he does not think a commission of enquiry would make things worse.
Whether it is admitted publicly or not, the people involved are ”perfectly aware of how much of the violence was politically motivated”, he said.
Therefore, a commission — if handled fairly — could restore confidence that the authorities are acting impartially, he said. — Sapa