By Paul Kariuki, Democracy Development Programme (DDP) | 18 July 2016
With a history of deep political conflict and high levels of violence in South Africa in general, the KZN Province has been particularly prone to high levels of political intolerance and violence. Since 1986, political violence has claimed the lives of more than 20 000 people and left more than 500 000 people displaced. Although there has been a decrease in the number of politically related deaths relating to elections, since 1999 political intolerance, political intimidation and violence has not completely subsided. Between the period 2000 to 2008 the political environment had become relatively calmer in relation to levels of political violence generally, and election related violence specifically, whilst social and criminal acts of violence have remained a feature of life across the Province. The threat of political conflict and violence, however, did not completely subside. "War-Lordism" has remained a lively political phenomenon throughout, and has latterly provided an impetus for the renewal of political conflict and violence.
While a marked trend away from inter political party conflict (between the ANC and the IFP and between the IFP and the NFP) has been evident, factional conflict within political parties has been on the increase. In 2016, the line between factional intra-political party conflict and violence, and inter- political party violence has become blurred and often indistinguishable. They now co-exist to a significant degree. Political intimidation, harassment and political intolerance has continued to be experienced in various parts of the province and has intensified in the lead up to the 2016 local government elections.
Consequently, the political situation in the province remains fragile. The entrance of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as a new contestant in the local electoral landscape has intensified competition amongst the political parties. Whilst this has contributed to the strengthening of multi-party democracy and increased the political choices of citizens, it has simultaneously introduced new potential conflict fault-lines.
Over the course of the month of June 2016, the KwaZulu Natal province continued to experience unusual political unrest. Politically motivated killing in Northern KwaZulu Natal has continued unabated, and little progress reading police investigations to arrest perpetrators is evident. While public release of sensitive information about ongoing investigations can jeopardise them, there has been no indications from either the police or the respective political parties' leadership about how seriously the incidences are being taken, or about the steps being taken to combat this in the future. Consequently, political tensions have increased, leading to the mistrust of public security institutions, and creates a climate of fear and polarisation in communities. One of the key drivers of the killings, appears to be unhappiness amongst political party activists and supporters (especially in the ANC), of the perceived imposition of local candidates in the ANC-led wards over candidates that citizens express a preference for as candidates. These impositions have led to political assassinations, that will either trigger by elections for certain wards or allow candidates on PR lists to be placed higher than they currently are, increasing chances of their electability. This has divided communities along across political, and on some occasions - clan, ethnic and even racial - lines.
In addition to political intolerance, conflict and violence which is election specific, KZN is bedeviled with a range of other social ills - ranging from the high levels of HIV and AIDS infection, widespread illiteracy coupled with inter-racial tensions, the abuse of farm workers on the farms, marginalisation of women and widespread youth apathy. Pre-existing levels of criminality and underlying attitudes of xenophobia as well as overt xenophobic attacks have been on the increase. This further polarised an already volatile political climate and increased fears and anxiety about safety and security, as the 2016 local government election date draws closer. Insufficient and inadequate voter and civic education on farms and rural areas, as well as in informal settlements and on the periphery of metropolitan areas has left voters susceptible to threats from political parties during campaigns, misinformation and potential manipulation by local war lords, traditional leaders, local political party strongman and employers on farms and large private concerns.
In spite of the re-emergence of political conflict and violent incidences occurring in the last four months, these have been dealt with and minimised through cooperation between some state institutions and civil society in the province. In response to the prevailing political climate, civil society organisations have come together to play a conflict monitoring and resolution as well as an educative and advocacy role, to contribute to an environment conducive to free, fair and credible elections.
The KwaZulu Natal Civil Society Coalition (KZNCSOC) has been established to promote cooperation and coordination amongst civil actors to contribute to a climate of relative calm and stability. Comprising of the Democracy Development Programme (DDP), KZN Council of Churches (KZNCC) and KwaZulu Natal Regional Council of Churches (KRCC) an extensive election education and election observation1 programme has been established. This involves the training, and deploying of 350 volunteer observers drawn from across ten different civil society organisations. Election Observers will be deployed to the following areas:
- Umlalazi local municipality
- Marianridge, Ndengezi & Pinetown
- Mthonjaneni, Melmoth
- Ulundi Township
- Esikhawin Township, Empangeni
- KwaMakhutha & Efolweni Townships
- V section Umlazi Township & Hostels
- Emtshezi Township, Escourt
- KwaMakhutha & Efolweni Townships
- KwaMashu Township & Hostels
- Ulundi and Nongoma
- Verulam, Inanda
- Ezingolweni & Shobashobane
- Paddock, Portshepstone
- Sunnydale township, Eshowe
- Mbali Township Umgungundlovu
- Hlabisa, Emabhokweni Reserve
- Umlalazi reserve, Eshowe
- Umlazi township
- Amajuba area, Newcastle
- Central town, Ladysmith
- Central town Umgungundlovu
- Shakaville township, Stanger
KwaZulu Natal Civil Society Coalition (KZNCSOC): http://www.kzncsoc.org.za/
- DDP: Dr Rama Naidu or Paul Kariuki - 031 304 9305; paulk[at]ddp.org.za; raman[at]ddp.org.za
- KZNCC: Dr Douglas Dziva - 083 735 3003; ddziva[at]kzncc.org.za
- KRCC: Mxolisi Nyuswa - 082 672 4035; nyusw[at]krcc.org.za
- Observation refers to information gathering and on-site fact-finding and making informed judgements about the credibility, legitimacy and transparency of the electoral process and its freeness & fairness. It is without any authority to intervene in any electoral related process. Election Monitoring - is of a different magnitude. Monitoring implies observation but monitors are highly trained specialists who have the right & responsibility to intervene where instances of legal, regulatory and procedural irregularities are in evidence. Election Monitors require formal accreditation from the electoral commission with a clearly defined mandate.