South Africa: Political Murders - It's About the Dough

Photo: iMaverick Graphic
The number of politicians murdered in the past five years has escalated, especially between 2010 and 2012.

Johannesburg — Political killings in South Africa are not about political dominance but about getting to the trough first.

"Some of these guys literally come out of severe poverty and if they get kicked out they will be back there." said deputy CEO of the SA Institute of Race Relations Frans Cronje.

"The stakes are high... it's about money."

The number of politicians murdered the past five years has escalated, especially between 2010 and 2012.

KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga seem to be the worst affected -- with 41 and five killed respectively.

Around the country, at least 46 officials from various political parties have been gunned down around the country.

Cronje said: "Yes South Africa is a democracy... but I can't think of another country that has this problem.

"We [the institute] have been hard pressed to find a single person killed over an idea. It all depends on tenders and corruption."

He said the issue had been swept under the carpet for far too long and was something that would become very controversial in the next five years.

Historically, KwaZulu-Natal has been a test-bed since the late 80s, and to this day it is still seen as a political killing ground.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Sihle Zikalala said the party had quite a few officials killed in the last two years, but was difficult to pinpoint motives.

"We have called for serious interventions to crack all these cases. It's destabilising the party."

Zikalala said the ANC did not want to accuse another political party, especially not before a full investigation was conducted.

IFP MP Albert Mncwango said political tension in KwaZulu-Natal was because of the IFP breakaway group the National Freedom Party.

Mncwango said quite a number of councillors in his party had been killed the past five years.

"A rough figure, which is subject to verification, is around 10. We believe it was always politically motivated," he said.

"They took place especially around the Natal Midlands and these murders escalated when there were internal ructions which gave rise to the NFP."

Former IFP chairwoman Zanele Magwaza-Msibi and her backers launched the new opposition to the IFP in January 2011.

The NFP has said 22 of its members have been murdered since its launch.

Many of these murders had been blamed on the IFP. Mncwango said this was unfortunate.

"In all their murders, that they say are politically motivated, I can't think of any IFP member who has been apprehended."

NFP general secretary Nhlanhla Khubisa said the party had never blamed other political parties for the spate of murders.

"We say its politically motivated because it started immediately when the party was formed and of course in some cases there was some kind of political intolerance."

Khubisa did however say that it was not NFP members killing other NFP members. "We a threat to somebody, somewhere."

So is political intolerance in South Africa too high? According to Zikalala it is.

"It is a problem and the problem of political assassinations is a serious one," he said.

Mncwango said there was a new brand of political intolerance in the country. It was no longer about parties defending their political strongholds.

"We have a new kind of political intolerance which has to do with tenderpreneurship," he said.

"This is becoming a huge influence in politics and a source of internal ructions in parties."

Because the IFP was not running government it did not hand out tenders and so it had minimal infighting, said Mncwango.

Zikalala said the problem surrounding tenders could not be ruled out but that would form part of the ANC's investigation into the reason for political murders.

Khubisa said there needed to be a change of mind set amongst members of political parties across the political landscape.

"At some point some kind of political education is needed across all parties," he said.

Five politicians have also been murdered in Mpumalanga since 2007.

There have been allegations of a hit list circulating in the province which had the names of provincial politicians on it.

The list apparently targeted people who stood in the way of access to 2010 Soccer World Cup tenders.

It was said to be compiled, funded and executed by ANC members.

Two people, Jimmy Mohlala and Sammy Mpatlanyane, whose names were on the alleged hit list, had been murdered in 2009 and 2010.

Cronje concluded that ANC policy was killing off parts of the party.

"Look at the ANC... money has brought it to where it is."

Material gain, said Cronje, went hand in hand with politics.

This was especially true in a country such as South Africa where the previously poor were now in power.

"The fight for tenders is desperate," Cronje said.

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