When the stars come out over the dark green hills of beautiful
KwaZulu-Natal, so do the sophisticated guns and the hooded assassins.
Nine months prior to South Africa's second democratic elections,
indiscriminate murder has reemerged as the political tactic of choice
in this strategically important province. The violence has reached a
level to rival that of Algeria.
"I believe there are two motives for all this violence," said
Andrew Ragavaloo, the mayor of hard-hit Richmond, in an interview.
"It is to destabilize and demoralize the populace prior to the 1999
On July 28, while the army patrolled other parts of the Richmond
district, gunmen crept through the bush to reach a village deep in a
rural area. Inside one house, a family of nine slept. The killers
kicked down the door and executed everyone, including several
children. Neighbors said the family was apolitical, and reported
that the gunmen spoke English and Afrikaans and "sounded white."
While statistics differ depending on their source, there's little
doubt the murder rate here is rising again. Whites are believed to
be fomenting black-on-black violence. The number of murders had been
falling in recent years, after reaching a high in the early 1990s as
politicians vied with each other to intimidate the public prior to
the 1994 elections. Provincewide, murders averaged 167 per month in
1993, but fell to 22 in 1997. But in July alone in the district of
Richmond, the toll was 40.
Mayor Ragavaloo is a member of the African National Congress
(ANC). The party is in power nationally, and it controls the
Richmond municipal council. But the KwaZulu-Natal provincial
administration is governed by the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom
Party (IFP). Ragavaloo says the perpetrators hope this campaign of
terror will lead to disillusionment with the ANC, so that voters will
join the IFP to be safe. He claims that 94 people have been murdered
in Richmond since May 1997, and that 76 of them were ANC members,
including four of his councilors.
Both the ANC and the IFP used murder as a political strategy prior
to the 1994 elections. But in the last two years they have sought an
entente to permit them to govern side by side in their respective
fiefdoms. The two parties jettisoned their more infamous members
from the 1994 pre-election period. Among them was Sfiso Nkabinde, a
former ANC leader widely regarded as a brutal warlord.
After his expulsion, Mr. Nkabinde ran in a council by-election,
losing to the ANC candidate. The murder spree started shortly after.
Four ANC councilors in Richmond have been killed. …