FILE – ANC flag. 29.05.2012. File photo: Sizwe Ndingane
FILE – ANC flag. 29.05.2012. File photo: Sizwe Ndingane

ANC’s internal conflict sows fear before local elections

By Mary de Haas Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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OPINION: While ANC provincial leadership condemns the violence, it needs to deploy its senior members to monitor meetings, and ensure that all those engaging in violence, including assault and pointing of guns, are immediately criminally charged, writes Mary de Haas.

The spectre of the many killings before the 2016 local government elections looms large over the elections on November 1.

Thus far, there has been less violence than in 2016 but, with the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s reopening of candidate lists, recent deaths and injuries linked to politics fuel fears that violence may escalate in the coming weeks.

Immediate steps to prevent conflict could include monitoring ward meetings by senior party members and the police, subject to checks on links with candidates to ensure independence. However, the conflict linked to politics is part of a wider violence problem of the routine use of hitmen, guns and corrupt policing needing urgent attention.

As in the 2016 elections, intra-ANC conflict is most in evidence, as factions continue to dominate the party, and the competition for candidature is intense given the rewards which being a councillor bring.

Thus far, violence has not reached the 2016 levels, but the reopening of candidate registration by the IEC on September 20 might intensify competition, especially as those who have been excluded by the ANC directive if facing criminal charges may not go quietly.

The drive-by shooting on September 11, which left three women dead and five other people injured outside the venue of an ANC meeting in Inanda C Section, has rung alarm bells.

The motive for the barbaric attack is far from obvious, one possibility being that those behind it wanted to sow fear to disrupt the elections. Nor is it clear why a key opponent of the councillor in Glebelands, Sthe Mkhize, was shot dead at the hostel on September 12, since a new, widely supported, ANC candidate has been selected to represent the ward.

As in 2016, there have been several reports of threats and intimidation at meetings to select candidates open to wider ward membership. The presence of armed men and intimidation was reported from various areas including Pietermaritzburg wards, Ntuzuma and in a Mid-Illovo ward where there was a subsequent attempt on the life of the successful candidate.

The selection of candidates has been subject of complaints against the ANC, with excluded sitting councillors, especially believed to be former president Jacob Zuma supporters, threatening protest action.

The potential for violence linked to the ANC’s exclusion of candidates facing criminal charges is illustrated by recent events in the Umsunduzi Copesville ward where the sitting councillor, Sphamandla Madlala, is facing criminal charges for fraud, and there is resistance to his being removed.

At a constituency meeting on September 11, a popular candidate, Mlungisi Zondi, was stabbed and seriously injured, allegedly by supporters of Madlala. Zondi is also a crucial witness in the case against Madlala, and in the case involving the attempted assassination of ANC corruption-fighter Thabiso Zulu in October 2019.

That police from Mountain Rise station were present and apparently did nothing to stop the attack raises very serious questions. A complaint has been lodged with the station commissioner and with the provincial police commissioner, since this is not the first instance of partisan policing at the station.

The Copesville incident points to a major stumbling block in dealing with violence, including around elections – the politicisation of policing in KZN, since 1994. It is not only about support for a particular party but for a faction within that party.

Compounding the problem is that councillors often have close links (possibly corrupt) with local stations. In monitoring party meetings, the deployment of a member from another station is advisable. Armed people must be excluded from meetings.

While ANC provincial leadership condemns the violence, it needs to deploy its senior members to monitor meetings, and ensure that all those engaging in violence, including assault and pointing of guns, are immediately criminally charged.

There is a history of civil society monitoring elections themselves, especially representatives of faith-based organisations. Perhaps local ministers and pastors could do some independent oversight and intervention in potentially volatile areas?

Like other violence, a key factor in its continuation at election times is that those who committed crimes in 2016 – from armed threats to murder – have not been brought to justice. The blame for crime continuing to pay lies with the prosecution services as well as the police, since it is the job of prosecutors to ensure that detectives gather sufficient quality evidence, and that is not happening.

While SAPS management must urgently address the serious question of factionalism in the SAPS and the plethora of other policing problems, immediate steps must be taken to address the malfunctioning of the criminal justice system generally. Only then will we make any progress in dealing with the hit man and illegal guns, and reducing abnormally high levels of violence, including around elections.

* Mary de Haas is an honorary research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Law, and a member of the Navi Pillay Research Group focusing on justice and human rights.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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