Durban - Parties contesting political space in KwaZulu-Natal have committed to playing fair ahead of and during the general elections on May 7.

KZN, where fears of political intolerance and violence have flared, was first off the block on Monday with the signing of the electoral code of conduct in which political parties committed to tolerance and to allow each other space to campaign and contest elections.

Provincial leaders of the ANC, IFP, DA, NFP, ACDP, EFF, MF, APC, BPC, Cope, Azapo, and AgangSA on Monday signed the pledge at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC.

IEC commissioner Bongani Finca praised KZN for being the first province to sign the electoral code. Finca called on the electoral court to impose tough sanctions prescribed by law against any party or candidate found to be in violation of the code of conduct. Such sanctions are provided for in the electoral act and include disqualification of candidates or parties and the reduction of the number of votes for transgressors.

Head of detectives in KZN, deputy commissioner Lieutenant-General Mjabuliswa Ngcobo said police would ensure additional security deployments in areas where tensions are reported.

Operations would also be increased in these areas and would include raids on suspects and stop-and-search operations, he said.

Jo-Ann Downs, the deputy president of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), said the province had come a long way since the 1994 elections when there were many no-go areas.

Then, she said, political parties would have to rely on police escorts to campaign freely. “Today the legislature is a peaceful place. We can slam each other’s ideas and then go on to have lunch together.”

But Downs said there were still remnants of the past, as in some areas like Ntuzuma, where her party had been prevented from establishing branches.

Vikizitha Mlotshwa, the provincial chairman of the NFP, said that his party was against any no-go areas.

“This province is a field where all of us must play, it will be your fortune or my fortune to score a goal,” he said.

The DA said that it had faith in the IEC and the police to ensure there were free and fair elections. DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu, however, urged traditional leaders to allow free political activity in areas under their jurisdiction.

The IEC came in for a lashing by some political parties such as the EFF. The EFF criticised the IEC for the registration fees that had to be paid by parties contesting elections.

Parties have to pay R180 000 to be included on the national ballot, while they have to pay R45 000 for each province being contested.

“This makes democracy inaccessible to the poor,” said Vusi Khoza, the convener of the EFF in KZN.

He questioned why the IEC was using teachers aligned to Sadtu which, by association to Cosatu, was aligned to the ANC, as officials.

The IFP’s Mbangiseni Yengwa supported the view that Sadtu teachers should be disqualified from serving as IEC officials. ANC chairman Senzo Mchunu, however, said that the IEC should appoint people based on merit.

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