Assassinations drive by-elections in KZN

Residents of several KwaZulu-Natal wards on Wednesday elected new councillors to replace representatives who had been assassinated in the ongoing political killings in the province.

In Durban, residents of ward 84 in Umlazi voted in ANC candidate Msizi Mabaso as a replacement for councillor Bhekithemba Phungula, who was murdered near his home in July this year.

His murder, as yet unsolved, appeared not to have impacted on the popularity of the governing party in the ward, which it has held since 1996, with Mabaso taking 73.4 % of the vote.

Phungula was the latest of several eThekwini councillors killed since 2016 in politically linked assassinations in the province, which were kicked off mainly by infighting in the governing party.

Last October, S’bu Maphumulo, the ANC councillor for ward 88, was shot dead in a hit over which the ward 80 ANC councillor, Mthokozisi Nojiyeza, was arrested. Nojiyeza was later released, and charges were withdrawn after a state witness recanted their statement to police.

At Mtubatuba, residents of ward 10 returned another Inkatha Freedom Party candidate, Blessing Mthiyane, to replace councillor Thengazakhe Maphanga, who was shot dead in an apparent assassination on 2 May this year. 

Maphanga was the second councillor to be murdered in the area. An ANC proportional representation councillor and the party’s chief whip in the Mtubatuba council, Philip Mkhwanazi, was murdered later the same month. 

Mthiyane took just over 46% of the vote in the ward, in which only 53% of registered voters cast their vote on Wednesday. No arrests have been made in connection with the deaths of either Maphanga or Mkhwanazi.

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