KwaZulu-Natal’s killing fields – opportunism and greed driving violence
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OPINION: Personal enrichment and advancement which has nothing to do with the policy positions of political parties, but everything to do with greed and accumulation of wealth, now drives people to have opponents eliminated, writes Cyril Madlala.
Once again, as the country counts down to the November 1 local government elections, attention is drawn to the spate of murders of individuals associated with contesting political parties.
The pattern fits the narrative of “political killings” as if what we are witnessing in 2021 mirrors what transpired in the 1980s and 1990s when, for instance, KwaZulu-Natal was in the grip of fear because of political assassinations.
While the sanctity of every human life is unquestionable, the circumstances around each murder is important if we are to distinguish between crimes motivated by political ideology and those inspired by political opportunism and economic greed.
Without unnecessarily bringing up painful details of the modus operandi of apartheid death squads, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard how often killers would celebrate with a braai and alcohol after missions were accomplished.
The kits konstabel assassins behind the massacres in Trust Feed, in New Hanover in 1988, in KwaZulu-Natal were not only sober, they were convinced that they were executing lawful orders by their white commander. Similarly, the Caprivi Strip trainees who killed innocent people in KwaMakhutha, south of Durban, thought they were fighting the enemy.
Firm was also the belief of those who planted bombs that killed women in the 1980s that they were striking a blow to dismantle apartheid.
The Umkhonto weSizwe operatives infiltrated into the country to kill izimpimpi and Inkatha warlords certainly had nothing to gain personally from those murders, and they did what they believed they had to do in their full senses.
It is in this context that Police Minister Bheki Cele’s assessment of the latest killings should be viewed.
KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Western Cape and Eastern Cape are the sites of the majority of the 300 high-risk voting stations that require an allocation of additional resources during the election.
Visiting the family of slain Economic Freedom Fighters’ candidate for Umsunduzi Municipality, Thulani Shangase, Cele remarked that the shooting took place in a watering hole.
“We went to the crime scene and we do like to raise the issue that alcohol continues to give us problems. Where he was killed, we know that they were having some drinks. So we do need to look at this issue that alcohol sometimes can be a real generator of these kinds of situations,” Cele was quoted.
The minister’s disdain for alcohol is no secret. Nor is this to suggest that political intolerance is not a factor in the murder of politicians.
South Africa is a haven for lawlessness and crime committed with unnecessary cruelty and violence even when the victims are elderly and offer no resistance. As Cele has often pointed out, many of the young women who are molested over weekends frequent drinking places where disagreements often lead to fatal consequences.
As the country builds up to election day, it is inevitable that when members of different parties come together in public spaces there will be verbal sparring which might escalate to violence and killing.
That is pure crime, and it should be viewed as such like any other, be it gender-based violence against women and children and other variations.
It is a manifestation of lack of tolerance and paucity of political education the kind of which was decried by the Moerane Commission that was set up by the KwaZulu-Natal government in 2016 to probe the underlying causes of the murder and attempted murder of politicians in the province.
It was also mandated to chart the way forward regarding the prevention of future incidents of murder and attempted murder involving politicians, both as victims and suspects and ensuring the successful investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.
In 2021, politically-linked persons are still being killed.
However, these days the pattern that has emerged is distinctly different from what characterised the political killings of the 80s and 90s when perpetrators, irrespective of the political divide, could blame their dastardly acts on political or ideological motivation.
The assassins hired by tender entrepreneurs are only motivated by money and would for the right price eliminate anyone across the political divide.
Personal enrichment and advancement which has nothing to do with the policy positions of political parties, but everything to do with greed and accumulation of wealth, now drives people to have opponents eliminated.
It was to be expected that as South Africa outgrew the euphoria of freedom and being a constitutional democracy, it would outgrow the enthusiasm to embrace the values that were supposed to underpin the new order.
The Bill of Rights protects the right to life and enshrines freedom to affiliate to any political grouping.
But murders of politicians in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country will be with us for a while because in the absence of political maturity and proper understanding of why some people had to die in the 1980s and 1990s, those desperate to ascend to power at any cost and without a just cause, have stepped forward.
They are determined that no political education, ideology, commission of enquiry or Bheki Cele will stop them from accumulating political power and wealth.
For them, dead bodies are mere collateral damage.
* Madlala is a political commentator and former Editor of Independent on Saturday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.