A NATIONAL Freedom Party (NFP) leader in the volatile northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Ulundi was shot and killed on Monday night.

Siphumelelo Buthelezi, 36, a branch leader in Ulundi Ward 4, was ambushed by unknown gunmen while she was walking home at about 8pm. She was shot several times and died on the scene.

Police spokesman Capt Thulani Zwane on Tuesday confirmed the incident and said a murder case had been opened.

"We are investigating the circumstances surrounding this murder but no arrests have been made so far. The motive for the killing is unknown," Capt Zwane said.

But the NFP said it had no doubt Buthelezi was killed for political reasons.

NFP secretary-general and spokesman Prof Nhlanhla Khubisa asked the police to leave no stone unturned in their investigations. He said the party had earlier this year lost another leader, Themba Jiyane, who was also shot dead.

"We cannot say we are campaigning freely and fairly when we keep on losing leaders who are vital in our organisation. Last week we were celebrating winning the two wards and this week we are crying because one of our leaders has been killed," said Prof Khubisa.

The NFP said as it intensified its campaign ahead of next year’s general elections its leaders were coming under fire.

Last week, the car of Umtshezi Municipality deputy mayor and NFP leader in Escourt, Bhekithemba Dlamini, was attacked by a mob.

Prof Khubisa said these incidents pointed to heightening political tension in the province and urged the government to put contingency measures in place to ensure violence did not mar or disrupt campaigning ahead of next year’s elections.