President Jacob Zuma has called the murder of eight women in eMbangweni village, near Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal “outrageous and inhuman.”
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Zuma strongly condemned the attacks on two family homes on Tuesday night.
Among the victims are two grandmothers and six grandchildren, aged between two and 16. A one-year-old baby is in a critical condition.
“Such outrageous and inhuman action against defenceless women is a gross violation of the right to human life as enshrined in the Constitution. I am deeply dismayed by this heartless and inexplicable cruelty”, said Zuma.
The president appealed for help from the community to help police find those responsible. He added that “all forms of violence against women, children and the elderly should never be tolerated in our society.”
The community of eMbangweni now lives in fear.
“What worries us is that we don’t know how this tragedy occurred. It really affected us and we are now living in fear,” one of the neighbours told eNCA.
“Even when we sleep we don’t know what will happen. When you hear something, you are not sure what it is. You have sleepless nights,” another community member said.
The motive for the attack is unknown but the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) confirmed one of its members, Shakes Sibiya, is related to the victims. He was not home at the time of the attacks.
The IFP said he was its candidate in last year’s local government elections but added this did not mean the motive for the killings were political.
The province has become a hotbed for deadly political violence, which is being investigated by the Moerane Commission.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Nqobile Gwala said they are unwilling to speculate. “Our investigations are still continuing and our KZN acting commissioner condemned the brutal killing of the family and tasked the provincial organised crime task team to investigate the murders.”
Police said they will maintain a presence in the area to give the community peace of mind.
“The manner in which the police are actually working around the clock, I’m optimistic that very soon they will make a breakthrough and apprehend the perpetrators,” said mayor of the Umvoti Municipality, Thami Ngubane.