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Election violence a litmus test to SA democracy

May 27, 2024 12:55 pm by: Category: Featured, Local, National, NEWS Leave a comment A+ / A-

by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – VIOLENCE, brutality, vote rigging allegations and threats against electoral officials have raised the spectre of a disputed election in South Africa.

The trend is denting the country’s reputation as the continent’s role model of democracy.

Make-or-break polls are ongoing but are officially scheduled for Wednesday.

Political temperatures are searing amid what is projected to be the most hotly-contested poll since the inaugural democratic elections in 1994.

Predictably, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province is the bedrock of poll-related tensions. The usually calm Limpopo is suddenly an epicentre.

Gauteng, the most populous province and the economic hub, is also recording cases.

Children have not been spared the violence related to elections.

This past week alone (May 19-25), the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) received 27 more cases related to elections.

This is staggering in a country associated with peaceful elections. But on this poll, stakes are high, hence the skirmishes.

A total of 17 of the cases were reported in Limpopo, the northernmost province.

In the Seshego area of the province, a 25-year-old man and nine-year-old girl were shot and wounded during a door-to-door campaign.

A 44-year-old man has been arrested and appeared in court for allegedly committing the offence.

Police are also investigating a case in Gauteng where a group of men attacked a woman, who was putting up posters for her party.

Six other cases were related to the vandalism and illegal removal of posters.

NATJOINTS has intensified its elections operational plan by heightening police visibility and warning social media users against spreading fake news. Its intelligence and cybercrime units are monitoring online users.

Lieutenant General Tebello Mosikili, NATJOINTS chairperson, said the organisation was up to the task of fighting election-related crimes.

“We are in charge. We are in control,” she emphasized.

Meanwhile, tempers are flaring in KZN, in the southeast.

It has over the years emerged the most volatile before and after democracy.

It is the largest branch of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and is projected to be the most contested after the rise of the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party established by former ANC and country president, Jacob Zuma, after claiming persecution by his comrades.

MK is forecast as a frontrunner to wrestle control of the KZN, a province dominated by the Zuma’s Zulu tribe, the most populous in this country of over 60 million people.

Over 27 million are eligible to vote.

Videos have been circulating on social media by supporters of the MK party alleging “vote rigging” was in progress by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The allegations are around the planned logistical arrangements and storage of election material.

MK members have, in violation of electoral laws, been at the time of filing this article, at the provincial warehouse of the IEC.

“No party will be allowed to gain entry into the warehouse premises of the commission,” IEC stated, suggesting MK party had breached the law.

MK, formed late last year, has been at loggerheads with IEC after the commission protested against the inclusion of Zuma on the ballot following his prison sentence in 2021 over contempt of court charges.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that Zuma is not fit to stand for election but the veteran politician (82) again this past weekend, while addressing party supporters and South Africans, hit out at the judiciary and alleged were complicit in the erosion of democracy, under the administration of current leader, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa, 11 years Zuma’s junior, is seeking a second term but is overwhelmed by problems plaguing the now factionalised ruling party and a corruption-riddled government under fire for escalating economic ills.

It is forecast the ANC will secure below 50 percent of the vote, for the first time since democracy.

A security expert projected that violence, especially in KZN, was especially likely in the event of Zuma and his supporters rejecting the Constitutional Court’s verdict.

In 2021, more than 300 people died in stampedes and confrontation with police when Zuma was jailed. This prompted the establishment of NATJOINTS.

Meanwhile, in KZN, the IEC reported that its presiding officer had this past weekend woken at home in the middle of the night about bulk material stored at a local church that would be used as a voting station.

“The Commission strongly condemns threats to its staff,” it stated.

It stated no party nor representatives had authority to gain access to private homes of electoral staff.

“Worse still no party nor its representatives may take control of election material without being authorized.”

This past weekend, parties held their final rallies to woo voters.

Besides the ANC and MK, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), third-placed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) among others held well-attended rallies across the country.

According to the think-tank, Afrobarometer, unemployment far outranks other issues as the country’s most important problem that citizens want their government to address after the elections.

Electricity/load shedding (26 percent), corruption (21 percent), inflation/cost of living (21 percent), poverty (21 percent) and management of the economy (20 percent) round out citizens’ top priorities for government action.

– CAJ News

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