urban – With under a month to go to the August 3 local government elections, the IEC chairman, Glen Mashinini, believes this year’s poll will be the most contested in the new South Africa.
He was speaking on the sidelines of an election prayer service held by the Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban on Wednesday.
KwaZulu-Natal’s lead up to the polls has been marred by political deaths – particularly in the ANC – and there is now the prospect of more disturbance in NFP strongholds in Ulundi after the party was disqualified from participating in the elections for failing to pay their registration fee to the IEC on time.
Mashinini said the candidates lists had caused discontent among people, and had led to a sharp rise in the number of independent candidates participating in this year’s poll.
“Contestation of the candidate lists… has led to intra-party conflict and also, we have inter-party (conflict). The intra-party conflict has made people think that if they can destroy the list, there will be another process to redo the list, but we have gone electronic, so there was an attempt to burn down an office in Mpumalanga last week,” he said.
Mashinini said the IEC was prepared efficiently for the polls, and called for political parties, religious bodies and society to adhere to the code of conduct at all times.
Asked if this was the most contested poll in the new South Africa, Mashinini agreed.
“One would say we are charting new waters; there is greater contestation and now the swing in votes has reduced. A difference of 5-10 people can determine if a person wins or not, whereas before, one political party had a large majority in certain constituencies. Now we have a different scenario.
“There is also a large number of people standing as independent candidates – the biggest ever. They are also out there, they want to win the seats as independents,” he said.
Mashinini condemned the political killings on the road to the elections, and called on citizens to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections.
“We call upon political parties and civil society to be vigilant, to adhere to the code of conduct and to ensure an environment conducive to free and fair elections, free of violence, intimidation and destruction of schools,” he said.
The eThekwini Municipality deputy mayor, Nomvuzo Shabalala, and DA MP Phumzile van Damme, represented their parties at the prayer.
Bishop Barry Wood of the Roman Catholic Church prayed for those that had been killed to have eternal peace, prayed for humanity and prayed for safe communities.
The Diakonia Council of Churches chairman, Reverend Ian Booth, said the NFP’s exclusion posed a threat in the province.
“We need to find ways to address that,” he said.
“It makes one wonder, with just under a month to go to the elections, whether the elections can be judged free and fair given the violence and resistance we’ve already had in the build up to it. That is why it is important to pray for peace in this province and this city,” he said
Van Damme called for the ANC to solve their intra-party conflict as it affected ordinary people in communities.
She called for NFP leaders to solve their issues through the courts and not through violence.