The assassination of political figures in South Africa has a long and horrible
history. That the practice has continued since the country became a
democracy is deeply disturbing.
by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime between
2000 and 2017 ranked one province in South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal –
well ahead of the other eight provinces in killings of people in the political
sphere and the taxi industry.
I have conducted on political violence in the province since 1983. My work
has been of a qualitative nature, using information obtained from my own
research networks, interventionist work with the police, and media reports.
My work, among other things, confirms the close links between political
and taxi violence in the province, with taxi hitmen often deployed in
political attacks. It is a cause for great concern that despite the availability
of information about such activities, little progress has been made in
bringing perpetrators to justice.
According to my statistics, around 90 people with some official standing
have been killed in KwaZulu-Natal since 2015. They were either municipal
councillors, political party officials or, in a few cases, senior municipal
officials. Most of the deceased were affiliated to the African National
Congress (ANC), the party that governs both the province and the country.
The inter-ministerial task team investigating the political killings started
work on over 100 dockets in mid-2018. Over a year later, the only known
high profile conviction for any of the 90 murders I documented was secured
by KwaZulu-Natal detectives in March 2019 for a 2016 murder.
There may well have been convictions for the murders of less well known
victims in regional courts which have not been reported. But none have
been reported for the many prominent victims during this period.
From my personal experience, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain
information from the South African Police Service about progress in
I have also experienced a lack of transparency relating to the structure of
the task team itself, including who commands it.
I have been able to establish that many people have been arrested. Some
have been released without being charged while others have had charges
withdrawn after appearing in court.
A number of examples of high profile cases – some of which were included
in the dockets taken by the task team – show how the justice system is
failing to conclude cases. These include:
Evaluating task team performance
These high profile arrests, followed by subsequent withdrawal of charges,
have led to charges by the provincial ANC and the South African
Communist Party of political partisanship In the absence of empirical
evidence to substantiate claims by the minister of police about convictions
secured by this team, the inevitable conclusion is that their deployment is a
waste of scarce criminal justice resources.