Tensions within communities are being leveraged for political gain ahead of the April 22 general elections, resulting in reports of at least 40 incidents of election-related-conflict around the country said the Election Monitoring Network (EMN) on Monday.
These incidents, collated by the EMN’s 500 monitors around the country, included the murder of political rivals, attempted murder and destruction of property.
As a result, the EMN has urged political parties and community and business organisations, such as the taxi industry, not to politicise community tensions or issues, especially those which had no political genesis.
At a press conference held in Cape Town EMN chairperson Archbishop Thabo Makgoba revealed that in KwaZulu-Natal four cases of murder reportedly linked to political intolerance had been reported In Nongoma, Esikhawini, Gingindlovu and Molweni.
Two people had been shot and injured in Nongoma and seven cases of intolerance were reported in Nongoma, Gingindlovu, Inanda and Escourt.
And in Parys, in the Free State, the two houses, belonging to COPE supporters, had been burnt down on separate occasions.
Makgoba said there were also reports that government was misusing state funds for party political reasons and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) members were actively campaigning for their respective political parties.
He called on the IEC, political parties and South African citizens to refrain from any action that compromise the April 22 elections.
These include the manipulation of charity for political gain, such as reports which emerged from the Eastern Cape that local councillors were angry about the distribution of food parcels by church leaders, as they believed this was undermined the effectiveness of their distribution of government’s services to the people.
Additionally, he said in the Free State there were allegations that political parties were using a feeding scheme meant for the community, to ‘buy votes’.
He urged government departments to ensure that proper procedures are followed to identify beneficiaries of social assistance such as state grants and food parcels by following a process that all individuals and families who are desperately in need of assistance actually get it.
IDASA executive director Paul Graham said there have been reports of some politicians abusing the Social Relief Distress (SRD) grants.
“Reports from KwaZulu-Natal record a political party bused more than 2 000 destitute people to the department of social development with the promise of food vouchers and a free breakfast.
“This allegedly led to children and elderly people being injured in a food stampede,” said Graham.
He said the taxi industry was also using the upcoming election as a manipulative device, threatening to disrupt it as a result of their dispute with government over the planned Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) system.
Traditional leaders are also reported to be denying political parties the right to hold meetings in certain areas and some were forcing people to join particular political parties, threatening eviction from the areas if residents refused.
The EMN network of independent civil society organisations includes IDASA, Action for Safe South Africa, the South African Council of Churches in the Western Cape, The Western Cape Religious Leader’s Forum, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Quaker Peace Centre, the Centre for Conflict Resolutions and the Black Sash. – West Cape News