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SA’s Political Killings Are Making International Headlines Now

Just like the New York Times wrote a long read on the topic of South Africa’s economic apartheid, so has The Guardian waded in with their opinion, this time taking a look at the political killings in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The intro to The Guardian‘s piece titled “‘A phenomenon within the ANC’: murders turn spotlight on South Africa’s ruling party” is a chilling one, yet similar occurrences happen more often than not.

Take a read:

It is a chilly late winter afternoon on the hilly uplands of South Africa’s south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. At a crowded taxi stand near the village of Ibisi four men wait in a BMW, its engine idling.

Sindiso Magaqa [above], a 35-year-old rising star in the African National Congress (ANC), the party that rules the district, the province and the country, is driving back to his wife and three children. He is on home turf but is wary nonetheless. When he pulls his Mercedes 4×4 in among the taxis to drop off a colleague, his armed bodyguard gets out to stretch his legs.

There is a sudden burst of gunfire, and the waiting BMW roars away. Magaqa’s vehicle has more than 20 bullet holes around the driver’s door. The young politician is slumped in his seat. He died of his injuries.

You see, in the last six years 80 ANC members have been killed in Kwa-Zulu Natal alone.

But while we might refer to them as political killings, Xolani Dube, a researcher at the Xubera Institute in Durban, calls them “corruption killings”, the result of “feuds, resources and tradition”:

The most serious charges levelled against the ANC is that it has become a machine for self-enrichment. President Jacob Zuma is accused of improper relations with one of South Africa’s wealthiest business families and last week the supreme court reinstated 18 charges of corruption against him dating back a decade. Zuma, who who has faced numerous other corruption allegations since taking office, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Ministers are embroiled in scandals. Provincial officials face allegations of graft. But there are problems at a grass roots level too. The office of the public protector, a powerful national ombudsman, and the Hawks, an elite police team, are now investigating the fraud allegations.

But Zweli Mkhize, one of the ANC’s top leaders, believes that the ANC could “turn the situation around”:

“The numbers of people standing trial or disciplined is quite large … I do believe the ANC is capable of correcting a lot of these tendencies we are seeing and rooting out corruption,” Mkhize told the Guardian.

But few of the corrupt – or the killers – have faced justice.

So why all the killings? Well, no one really knows:

The commission set up by the KZN government to investigate the political killings has heard repeated testimony that political killings are related to local competition over official posts and patronage. These bring status, cash and influence, all rare commodities in an area with deep social problems and few jobs.

Magaqa, a strong and independent figure with growing support in his home community, was widely tipped to get a top local ANC position at a forthcoming district conference.

“Many people felt threatened by him,” said one local politician in the district, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Other factors fuel the violence too. There is a long history of political killing in KZN, going back to the early 1990s and beyond.

“KZN is an environment where a high degree of violence has been normalised,” said Richard Pithouse, associate professor at Johannesburg’s Wits University.

Philani Shange, the deputy mayor of a district adjacent to Umzimkhulu, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a meeting there earlier this year. A volley of shots was fired at him as he opened the gate to his home at about 9pm. All missed. He says he does not know the reason for the assassination attempt.

“It could be some kind of power struggle in the municipality. It could be political. It could be a criminal element. It’s a difficult environment,” Shange told the Guardian.

All I can say is that the ANC has failed too many people for them to stay where they are. We’re going to need some deep social economic changes before life gets better for anyone.


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