The latest unexplained murder in eMpembeni near Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, spawned new requests for intervention and increased policing in the area.
In recent years, the small village on the North Coast has seen a series of murders that are believed to be linked to disputes over the business of large companies.
Richards Bay has grown from a small fishing town to an industrialized area, where thousands of people are employed by large companies, while small business owners compete for tenders offered by these companies.
In recent years, many people have been killed, while others have been forced into hiding.
According to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, at least 38 people have been murdered in mining locations in the province in the past five years.
And now there are fears of a resurgence of violence in eMpembeni.
A COMMUNITY AT EDGE
For a short time, tensions in this rural community seemed to have subsided, but it was the murder of Bheki Ndlovu – who was attacked by armed men four weeks ago – that made residents nervous.
Ndlovu, 39, was killed in his home in front of his girlfriend and 10-month-old baby.
It is alleged that those who broke into his home wore police uniforms and balaclavas. His murder is now being investigated by the Investigative Directorate of the Independent Police.
Her brother, Sifiso, a businessman, told Eyewitness News that the family was desperate for answers.
“The police just came into my house, and we don’t know why, they didn’t ask anything, they just shot and killed with seven bullets.”
Most attacks in mining locations like eMpembeni have been linked to competition in bids offered by large companies.
The chairman of the KwaDube business forum, Vumani Shandu, suspects that Ndlovu was mistaken for his older brother.
“That guy was not the real target. He did not like politics or business and preferred to keep it to himself. He was killed because he looked like his brother – Sifiso Ndlovu. Sifiso was the real target, ”said Shandu.
Having survived six assassination attempts, Shandu asked those in power to intervene to prevent further deaths.
“They must work with us because we know where this problem comes from,” said Shandu.
Business owners want an impartial authority to mediate between those who are at war over business.
CALLS OF RESPONSIBILITY
But researcher, monitor and analyst of violence, Mary de Haas, does not believe that mediation between companies in conflict is the only solution to the problem. She said that first, there must be accountability for the crimes.
“It is all a matter of a lack of proper implementation of law and order in the area, and that is the only way forward. You know that there are people with illegal weapons causing problems in the area. Until that is resolved, it will simply continue, ”said De Haas.
De Haas has recorded at least 20 murders in the area since 2018.
“You need to have a justice system that works if you want to bring stability or peace to your society, and that is not happening at eMpembeni. This is the crux of the problem. The main perpetrators need to be arrested ”.
In April, South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer and beneficiation company, Richards Bay Minerals, announced that its R6.7 billion mining expansion project would remain on hold until the safety issues that threatened its operations were resolved. . He cited attacks on his employees.
Some in the community believe that rogue police are working with criminals.