Durban - KwaZulu-Natal will see voters turn out on Wednesday to elect five ward councillors across the province in what could be the final by-elections before the national elections on May 7.
The five wards will be contested by 18 candidates, representing six political parties.
One ward in particular will be keenly watched as it has a history of political violence that appears to continue despite efforts, pledges, agreements, and calls by political parties for their members to be peaceful.
In Durban the Inkatha Freedom Party is expected to retain its only ward seat when voters go to the polls in Ward 39. The ward became vacant when the incumbent Mduduzi Ngcamu of the IFP resigned.
IFP eThekwini caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said the party fired him.
Nkosi said Ngcamu had been arrested for being in possession of an unlicensed firearm.
“All IFP representatives pledged that we will serve with integrity. We are not going to be involved in any corruption or any criminal activity. He was charged and arrested and as a result, we fired him.”
The ward, located in KwaMashu, includes the infamous hostels which have seen numerous killings and acts of violence in what has been a bitter war between the IFP and the National Freedom Party, which broke away from the IFP shortly before the May 2011 local government elections.
Ngcamu won the ward in a by-election in December 2012 with a 70 percent majority after the former councillor Themba Xulu was abducted and killed.
Apart from Xulu, a number of other IFP and NFP members and supporters have been killed or wounded amid an almost continuous police presence.
NFP leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi was quoted by The Citizen newspaper as saying: “We want to win, but from where I stand I cannot say people will come out in big numbers to vote for us. The tensions in this hostel are very high and people are scared to come out and vote for us,” she said.
Another ward that will be keenly watched is ward 22 in Abaqulusi (Vryheid).
The ward became vacant when the incumbent African National Congress councillor Andre Lotter quit the party in January 2013.
The resultant by-election did not take place after a legal challenge by Lotter, who claimed that the ANC and the IFP had bussed in voters who were not ordinarily resident in the ward.
At the end of July the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) announced it had removed 1500 voters from the voters' roll.
Lotter took the matter to the Constitutional Court and it ordered the IEC to postpone the election and investigate whether names had been fraudulently added to the voters' roll.
Lotter has insisted that there should be no election in the ward until some one is held accountable for the fraud.
The electoral court ruled otherwise and dismissed two applications by Lotter to have the by-election postponed.
The IEC's chief electoral officer for KwaZulu-Natal, Mawethu Mosery, said on Tuesday the court had dismissed Lotter's second application and the election would go ahead as planned.
In all, 1866 people were removed from the roll and, according to Mosery, police will need to determine who committed the fraud.
The municipality was formerly controlled by the ANC with the help of the NFP.
Lotter's resignation forced the by-election, leaving the ANC tied with the Inkatha Freedom Party on 16 seats each in the municipality. He is not a candidate in the election.
Ward 4 in Umtshezi is also being contested and became vacant following the death of ANC councillor Dawood Vahed, who died after a long illness. The ANC is expected to retain the ward.
By-elections are also being held in Dududu and Nongoma, which were previously held by ANC, NFP, and IFP councillors respectively.
The sixth by-election scheduled for the Jozini municipality was postponed, the IEC said.
“The recommendation followed objections received from the ANC and the IFP with regards to alleged inaccuracies on the voters’ roll,” spokeswoman Kate Bapela said in a statement.
She said previous elections in Jozini were also postponed due to allegations of fraudulent registrations.
“These allegations were investigated and the commission removed about 1300 voters who were found to be incorrectly registered.”
This year the ANC and the IFP claimed there were still voters incorrectly on the voters’ roll.
Bapela said in order to ensure credibility and the integrity of the election, the IEC decided to postpone the by-election in Jozini to allow further investigations.
“A date on which these by-elections will now be held has not yet been confirmed,” she said.