Members of the African National Congress who’ve spoken out against corruption are being targeted by assassins within the party of famed leader Nelson Mandela, The New York Times reported.
“If you understand the Cosa Nostra, you don’t only kill the person, but you also send a strong message,” Thabiso Zulu, an ANC whistle-blower who’s now in hiding, told the Times.
“We broke the rule of omertà,” he added.
According to the Times, political hits are rising sharply in South Africa — but unlike the political violence in the 1990s, the recent assassinations are mostly the results of ANC officials hiring professional hitmen to eliminate fellow party members in fights over money, turf and power, the Times reported.
About 90 politicians have been killed since the start of 2016, more than twice the annual rate in the 16 years before that, researchers at the University of Cape Town and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime report.
KwaZulu-Natal, a coastal province is South Africa, is the deadliest of all, with 80 ANC officials slain between 2011 and 2017, the Times reported.
“It was better before we attained democracy, because we knew the enemy — that the enemy was the regime, the unjust regime,” the district’s mayor, Mluleki Ndobe, told the Times. “Now, you don’t know who is the enemy.”
South Africa’s Public Protector had a message for the new president Cyril Ramaphosa, according to the Times, urging him to “take urgent and appropriate steps” to protect the whistle-blowers. His spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, says the president is consulting his police minister, the Times reported.
“These allegiances go all the way to the top of the party,” Makhosi Khoza, a prominent former ANC politician who works at OUTA, an organization fighting graft, told the Times. “That’s why the ANC is not interested in this, no matter how many murders there are.”
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