Sifiso Nkabinde, leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), was shot dead in the town of Richmond on Saturday. Hours later, 11 people were killed and eight wounded in a revenge attack on members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
More than 800 police and soldiers blanketed the small town yesterday, firing tear gas to disperse youths who had burnt down two houses.
"It's such a high-profile assassination that it is proper for the President to be in the country and be properly briefed," said Mr Mandela's spokesman, Parks Mankahlana.
A police spokesman said a convoy that included the provincial health minister, Zweli Mkhize, came under fire in the centre of Richmond yesterday. No one in Mr Mkhize's party was hurt, but police arrested five of the attackers after a gunfight in which two were wounded.
More police and soldiers were expected before nightfall to patrol the town, where mud and thatch homesteads are dotted about unlit green hills linked mainly by footpaths.
Nkabinde, a former member of Mandela's ANC who was deeply enmeshed in KwaZulu-Natal's long and violent history of political feuding, was shot in his car on Saturday by four men armed with automatic rifles. Shortly before midnight, four men burst into a homestead funeral service and opened fire with similar automatic rifles, a a police spokesman said.
One of the attackers later died in a gunfight with police and three presumed killers were arrested.
Nkabinde was expelled from the ANC in 1997 amid allegations that he had spied for the white government in the apartheid era.
Shortly afterwards, he was charged with 16 murders allegedly linked to his campaign for political power, but the case collapsed after one witness was killed and others withdrew their testimony. (Reuters)Reuse content