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Potchefstroom - The DA has questioned whether Tlokwe's by-elections would be fair on Wednesday.
“The ANC's brazen vote buying, abuse of power and political intimidation in Tlokwe calls into question the extent to which these critical by-elections can be considered free and fair,” Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said in a statement.
“Perhaps for the first time since 1994, the Democratic Alliance is seriously concerned that the 2014 national elections will be undermined by the ANC, whose conduct in Tlokwe reveals a party paranoid about its collapsing support and that will stop at nothing to retain power,” she said.
Zille said she would ask on Wednesday for a meeting with Independent Electoral Commission chairwoman Pansy Tlakula to discuss how to ensure the elections were not undermined.
The DA has accused the African National Congress of buying votes with food parcels.
This was after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and ANC North West chairman Supra Mahumapelo visited Tlokwe and handed out food parcels ahead of the by-elections.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said Zille's accusations were insulting to people faced with poverty every day.
“We do understand, though, that her attitude is informed by her privileged upbringing and her lack of understanding of the real challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality facing our people,” he said in a statement.
Dlamini's department and the government denied that the handing out of food parcels had anything to do with campaigning ahead of the by-elections.
Mthembu said the government could not stop its programmes because of by-elections.
“Poverty does not pause because there are by-elections. What the ANC finds particularly disturbing is the view by Helen Zille that black people are so cheap politically that their votes can be bought with food.”
By-elections were being held in three Tlokwe wards on Wednesday. In Ward 26, the biggest area, ANC supporters and residents supporting the independent candidate clashed over claims of voter intimidation. The DA was contesting only one of the wards.
The by-elections were being held because 14 councillors were expelled by the ANC in July after its provincial disciplinary committee found them guilty of misconduct for participating in a motion of no confidence against Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle.
Maphetle was replaced as mayor by DA councillor Annette Combrink.
The ANC's national disciplinary committee later overturned the expulsions. Despite this, eight of the councillors registered as independent candidates for the by-elections.
Zille said a crowd of people wearing ANC T-shirts beat up a DA member campaigning in Tlokwe on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, DA members in Ward Six showed reporters a photograph of a man in a blue DA T-shirt surrounded by people wearing yellow T-shirts. There was blood on the man's face and T-shirt, which was being pulled at.
Zille said the party had reported the matter to the police.
Mthembu said the ANC heard about the attack only in Zille's statement.
“This matter had not been reported to us or the party liaison committee of the Independent Electoral Commission at the time we were first made aware of it through her statement.
“We appreciate that the matter has been reported to the police and hope that the police will find and apprehend the culprits so that they may be dealt with within the ambit of our laws.”
He said the ANC did not condone violence or intimidation by its members and supporters.