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Durban - The two main adversaries contesting Wednesday’s by-elections in Nongoma - when three wards are up for grabs - pulled out all the stops at the weekend in a bid to win over voters.
Leader of the IFP Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whose party has up to now held sway in Nongoma, did a whistle-stop tour of schools in Wards 5, 10 and 11, where the by-elections are being contested.
The ANC held a rally in a large marquee erected at the Ekuvukenu sportsground, in Ward 10, and brought in their big guns: KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, and former police chief Bheki Cele, now an national executive committee member of the party.
ANC supporters were bused in from all over KwaZulu-Natal, to the “Siyanqoba” rally, where there was an all-day programme of speeches and entertainment on Sunday.
In an impoverished area marked by high levels of unemployment, the by-election is being fought largely on a service-delivery agenda.
Addressing packed school halls, Buthelezi’s message was the same for each audience: he said the ANC had built only 33 schools in the 10 years the party had been in power in the province, while the IFP had built 6 000 schools when they ran the province.
“Even as the new premier of KwaZulu Natal takes office, the finances of his former department of education are in a parlous state,” he said.
“The IFP stands as ‘a firebreak between Nongoma and the corruption of the ANC’, he said.
“At municipal level, the corruption filters down. Many of the municipalities that the ANC managed to take from the IFP, through collusion with Mrs (NFP leader Zanele) kaMagwaza-Msibi are now under administration,” he said.
The NFP (National Freedom Party) will also be contesting the three wards.
The vacancies were created when three former IFP councillors broke away and joined the ANC in August.
Mchunu praised the high level of political tolerance now displayed in Nongoma.
The area has been the scene of violence in previous elections.
However, the ANC claimed that their posters had been removed, and in some cases set alight.
“The ANC on Thursday morning erected 60 street pole banners in Nongoma as part of its campaign… for the three by-elections in Nongoma. Surprisingly, the street pole banners erected by the NFP a few weeks ago were not vandalised,” said ANC spokesman, Senzo Mkhize.
“We have reported the matter to the SAPS and we will officially lodge a complaint with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to investigate this barbaric act.”
Yesterday afternoon, two parties met briefly when the IFP convoy transporting Buthelezi to the next school on his itinerary – on his way from the Ingwemnyama School in Ward 10 to to Nzobo School in Ward 11 - had to drive past the ANC marquee around 4pm, just as the ANC members were leaving the rally.
Buthelezi was warmly received as he got out of the car and engaged with the ANC members, including joining in a dance with them.
There are 4 345 registered voters in Ward 5, 4 223 in Ward 10 and 4 231 in Ward 11.