Concerns of violence ahead of elections

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Western Cape IEC official Courtney Sampson, left, briefs media about the upcoming elections. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Cape Town -

Violence could prevent some people from voting in the upcoming elections, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Western Cape IEC official Courtney Sampson said at a media briefing on Monday that the climate of desperation in some areas could be a threat to election proceedings.

“We are concerned for the safety of our staff and assets,” he said. “We have to go into communities with existing violence and rebellion such as we haven’t seen in a long time. Not even in the years of struggle did people chuck poo around.”

Sampson cited violence in the Siqalo informal settlement where an IEC tent was petrol bombed after a day of voter registration last month. He said residents had also directed their rage at a portable flush toilet brought in for the day to be used by IEC staff.

“When we bring in flush toilets for our staff to use, it’s like a red rag to a bull,” Sampson said.

Discord may also be reigning in the ranks of politicians, as the IEC reported that party infighting is a new phenomenon.

“Every single party has very serious internal fault lines,” Sampson said. “Our main issue always used to be inter-party conflict. Then we started dealing with intra-party conflict, which emerged in 2009.”

Sampson said different members of the same party would bring the IEC conflicting lists of candidates, and it became such a problem they had to nationalise the list submission process.

However, the fault lines don’t run along ideological rifts. In fact, the infighting is about jobs, according to Sampson.

“People who speak well and represent their communities don’t necessarily have any other job or skill that would give them stability,” he said. “The party list becomes their entry into having a job.”

Sampson said that for some politicians, being elected into power for five years makes them accustomed to a certain income level and lifestyle. They then become increasingly desperate to be re-elected.

The May 7 election will be a watershed moment for the political landscape for three reasons, Sampson said.

Firstly, because it marks 20 years of democracy. Secondly, it will be the first vote for the “born frees”. An important section of the electorate will for the first time have been born after the end of apartheid.

Thirdly, it is the first election since democracy that will go ahead without the presence of our first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.

chelsea.geach@inl.co.za

Cape Argus


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