Initial reports spoke of a massacre but police said they were unsure if the same gang was responsible for all three attacks or if they were unrelated.
So far no "official'' motive has been given. However, in KwaZulu/Natal non-political killings are rare. And in Mandini, one of the province's most notorious flash points for violence between supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), every act of violence is political.
"Although we don't know for sure the motive for the killings, given the context of the situation in Mandini, there is very little doubt that that they were political," Senzu Mchunu, provincial head of the ANC in KwaZulu/Natal, said.
While police from Durban, 56 miles south, were flown to the scene yesterday, the ANC and Inkatha were busy with their own investigations, trying to establish if the victims were their members, so as to blame the other side. Once again, the spiral of violence and reprisal killings in KwaZulu/Natal threatens to spin of control.
Today the New York-based Human Rights Watch Africa group releases a report which warns that the violence in KwaZulu/Natal has the potential to derail South Africa's entire democratic experiment. "Although the monthly death toll has declined from the catastrophic heights seen before the elections of April 1994, the figures remain high enough to undermine the process of national reconstruction," a summary of the report said.
While both the ANC and IFP had committed atrocities, Human Rights Watch blamed senior Inkatha members for promoting the violence for their political benefit.
On Monday the Human Rights Committee, a South African group, said 78 people were killed for political reasons in the Inkatha-ruled province last month, an increase of 37 per cent on March. The death-toll since the elections stands at more than 1,000. Yesterday's shootings indicate that violence is not abating, in spite of more conciliatory language by ANC and Inkatha leaders over the past few days.
The ANC and IFP have been trading accusations and threats over the issue of international mediation on the powers and functions of provinces and the status of the Zulu monarch.
The IFP has demanded that the ANC and the formerly ruling National Party honour an agreement signed days before the April 1994 election. This deal, which convinced the IFP to end its boycott of the poll, called for international mediation on outstanding constitutional issues.
Yesterday the Inkatha leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said political violence would decline once the government had dealt with the international- mediation issue. He blamed the violence on the anti-mediation stance of the ANC: Inkatha was the victim, not the begetter, of the violence.
President Nelson Mandela, who only a week ago opposed international mediation, now agrees that there must be foreign intervention. The parties are to meet to consider the issue later this week.