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Durban - Former police commissioner Bheki Cele sought to allay fears that the political tension in the run-up to the ANC’s Mangaung conference would spark violence.
Speaking at a public dialogue in Mhlanga on Thursday evening, he said it was the same in the run-up to every ANC conference, starting with the Morogoro conference in 1961, but history had shown that things settle down after conferences were over.
The reason for the tension was that these conferences affected every South African, he said.
He assured delegates at the gathering, organised by the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, that KwaZulu-Natal had long got beyond the violence of the 1990s.
“For 37 weekends in 1993 I attended funerals,” he said.
So many people were killed during that period that, he said, he had to choose which funerals to attend.
The Christmas Day massacre at Shobashobane, near Port Shepstone, in 1995 showed how sick South African society was at that time, Cele said. Now there was a need for collective understanding on what to do about the violence, rather than just talking about it.
KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said the violence was not political, but was fuelled by the quest for control of resources and to occupy key political positions that were the gateway to resources.
“The previous political violence was about furthering political objectives… but the current violence is about competition to be on the party lists, to get into political office and be in control of tenders. Getting into a political position is an entry to controlling money and influence,” she said.
Despite some intra- and inter-political party violence in KZN, she said: “I don’t believe there is an unusually high level that will take us back (to the past).”
De Haas warned that violence had far-reaching negative implications for democracy.
“If people cannot express themselves freely because of fear for their lives, it is not good for democracy and also creates trauma,” she said. - The Mercury