According to the South African Local Government Association (Salga), 20 local government councillors have been murdered in KwaZulu-Natal since 2021.
Over the past four years, nearly 50 traditional leaders have also fallen victim to violence in the province.
These numbers are nothing short of alarming, particularly with a national election on the horizon.
Whenever an elected official or traditional leader is killed you have a cacophony of outrage in the form of media statements and other promises of action.
Yet, the killings continue.
With the 2024 national election on the horizon, it is imperative that the government takes decisive action to put an end to the senseless killings, violence and threats made against those who occupy or choose to contest leadership positions.
Our democracy can only thrive when its guardians are safe to carry out their responsibilities without fear.
In this crucial period, our political leaders must be acutely aware of the language they use when addressing their supporters.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, but they can only be truly free and fair when they are conducted within an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.
All too often we hear rhetoric that is peppered with violent imagery.
Candidates become opponents or the enemy. Politicians urge their supporters to annihilate the opposition at the polls.
Given our violent and fractured past, words become powerful weapons that have lethal consequences.
Given the alarming number of local government councillors and traditional leaders who are being killed in KZN, leaders must choose their words carefully and if their utterances can be construed as hate speech or an incitement to cause violence then firm appropriate action must follow.