Fear of violence in KZN ahead of elections

Visvin Reddy. | Supplied

Visvin Reddy. | Supplied

Published Mar 25, 2024


Durban — Police and intelligence units must be on alert ahead of the May 29 elections as recent inciteful political statements show KwaZulu-Natal is likely to experience violence similar to that of the July 2021 riots, says political analyst Sakhile Hadebe.

Hadebe, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, made this observation after analysing recent events in the province.

These included an altercation between Zulu traditional prime minister Thulasizwe Buthelezi, who is also a senior leader of the IFP, and ANC provincial chairperson Siboniso Duma.

There were also utterances by uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP) activists Visvin Reddy and Bonginkosi Khanyile, which threatened peace in the province.

“Law enforcement agencies need to be on high alert not only because of Khanyile and Reddy’s utterances, but also because of the court case, which is the worst-case scenario,” said Hadebe.

He was referring to the matter the ANC brought before the Electoral Court against the use of the trademark logo of its defunct military wing.

“If the court rules that the registration of MKP was unlawful, and therefore it must be removed from the ballot paper, by all means we need to have law enforcement agencies on alert as we might see violence similar to what we experienced three years ago,” said Hadebe.

Despite former president Jacob Zuma having a criminal record – after being convicted and sentenced to a prison term for defying the Constitutional Court order that he should appear before the state capture commission – Khanyile had said the man who had already served two terms as the state president would return to the Union Buildings if his party triumphed.

“Remove MK on the ballot, remove Zuma on the ballot, there won’t be elections in this country. We are prepared to lay down our lives,” he said.

In another incident, several people wearing ANC T-shirts were attacked in KwaCeza outside Ulundi, Zululand, on March 16. This followed an earlier incident on the same day, when Duma caused a scene by grabbing a microphone from Buthelezi, who was addressing hundreds of people, including Amabutho, in a government-organised traditional event – the 110th Commemoration of King Dinuzulu ka Cetshwayo – attended by King Misuzulu kaZwelithini and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Condemning the incident, Hadebe called on ANC former premiers Sbu Ndebele and Zweli Mkhize to intervene and discipline Duma. But he also criticised Buthelezi for using what he said was the wrong platform to launch an attack on ANC leaders.

He said leaders should abstain from using a violent tone as “KZN is a war-prone province”.

“We need senior leaders to talk to him (Duma), otherwise we will have a problem.

“Voice of reason, which is Shenge (Mangosuthu Buthelezi), is not here anymore and we don’t know how IFP is going to react to provocation.

“Thulasizwe Buthelezi overstepped the line because that was the government function, but Duma should not have acted the way he did,” said Hadebe.

Following the incident in KwaCeza, the National Freedom Party (NFP) issued a statement calling for Ramaphosa to consider postponing the elections while trying to stabilise the political tensions in the province.

“It demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the environment is not conducive to free, fair and credible elections.

“We implore for sober minds. But clearly, KZN is not ready. There's very little tolerance and the tensions are as clear as broad daylight. At least the President has had a first-hand experience of the mood on the ground,” the NFP said.

However, political analyst Mpumelelo Zikalala dismissed fears of violence and said the country would hold peaceful elections, and that state security was on high alert, having learned a hard lesson from the 2021 unrest. He said political parties had become tolerant of each other.

Sunday Tribune