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KwaZulu Natal Still an Axis of Instability and Political Violence

Feb 14, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

KwaZulu Natal has been plagued by political instability and political violence. The ruling ANC is struggling, as has been proven in the outcome of last year’s local government elections. Just last week, alliance partner, Sanco, warned the party not to look for scapegoats for their troubles. This followed ANC Provincial Chairperson and KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala’s, scathing attack on civil organizations, opposition parties and the media during the opening of the parties PEC lakhotla. Radio Islam spoke to well-known violence researcher, Mary de Haas, and political analyst, Professor Bheki Umkumuzelo.

Prof Umkumuzelo said that while since 1994 there have been intraparty squabbles, and interparty violence. He said, “now we have a knife that is sharpened on both sides, which then makes the situation volatile.”

Regarding the volatility of KZN, de Haas explained that the province was strategic: “There are specific historic dynamics here……. We’ve had the biggest harbours in the country; in the continent.” She elaborated that KZN had a very well-established organized crime network, with countless weapons. According to de Haas, the apartheid state had worked at keeping political divisions in the province alive, weakening the ANC in the region. She said, “and as a consequence of that, you have had a culture of violence, you’ve had…. thousands of people that died, but it was more than that.”  She added, “It was kids growing up with their houses burning……. you’ve got people in this province, who have been traumatized for life.” De Haas said that KZN had one of the most, if not the most, powerful taxi mafias, and went as far as to say she sometimes wondered if they ran the government.

Prof Umkumuzelo said it was difficult to identify who the individuals or the groupings were, that were at the root of the political instability and violence. He said that the situation in KZN was not as simple as people want to believe, and that the intraparty squabbles made the situation more complex, as did the interparty violence. Prof Umkumuzelo said, “Just recently, you saw that in places like Newcastle……you saw a situation whereby on the one side of the river, there will be a funeral of an ANC member which had been killed by an SACP member. And then on the other side of the river an SACP member will have been killed by the ANC member. It just doesn’t make sense if you consider the fact that these are alliance partners.” He added, “there are people who slaughter one another for positions.” Prof Umkumuzelo said that people who had evidence were not bold enough to come forward and give that evidence because they knew the consequences would be deadly.

Meanwhile, de Haas commented that there was no political will to find solutions to the problems plaguing KwaZulu Natal. She reiterated that the police were very highly politicized, in KZN, and other provinces, saying, “during that looting last July, at one police station alone, dozens of police refused to lift a finger, because they were supporters of Zuma.”  She said it was an oversimplification to want to get rid of the National Commissioner, and that the whole national management had to go starting with the Minister of Police. This was, according to de Haas, police are often complicit. Compounding the problem, was that police were getting promoted as a result of nepotism, or for political reasons. She said, “even the political task team is run by the Minister. Since when does a minister run a team investigating political killings in this province when seven potential suspects are his own colleagues?”

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