Summary and Introduction
The core mandate of EMN is early detection of and early response to threats of violence in the Local Government Election 2011. This mandate is executed through a network of fieldworkers and Provincial Coordinators, as well as media tracking on the Local Government Election 2011, in so far as it points to potential conflict and violence.
Today, we release our second pre-election report to provide a sense of the electoral democratic context, as it relates to conflict and violence, as well as signalling concerns that might arise beyond Election Day itself. In this election, service delivery is rightly dominating the electorate’s concerns.
Despite a number of serious incidents, by and large this has been most peaceful election since the advent of democracy, with the least experience of political intolerance. We would like to commend all of those who have contributed to making this election, for most South Africans, a passionate and vibrant contest and a credit to South African democracy. We have come a long way since our founding election of 1994.
Service delivery protests have grown in significance and intensity over the past two years. It is understandable that, as so many of the protests relate to failures by municipalities, that this local government election has provided them with renewed energy.
Service delivery protests have become a major item on the political agenda and in the news headlines during the campaign. This was most graphically captured in the death of Andries Tatane in Ficksburg, as well as the ‘toilet saga’ in the Western Cape, North West, and the Free State. Other, no less dramatic, examples of the citizenry making it heard through protests occurred with regard to housing in Hout Bay (Hangberg) and Randfontein (Bekkersdal).
While citizens have every right to protest peacefully, our worry is that service delivery protests are a consequence of people losing faith in the democratic process, and its ability to deliver change. This point has been made explicitly by service delivery protestors on a number of occasions. A further concern is that, while most service delivery protests are peaceful, some have turned violent. Service delivery protests are likely to remain a feature of political life in South Africa, untill government and municipalities become more effective in engaging with communities.
Cause of Incidents
Although election violence has been sporadic, there are definite trends to be noted. In addition to service delivery, the early part of the campaign, incidents relating to candidate selection, often linked with service delivery complaints, were the most prevalent type of incident reported to the Election Monitoring Network. In the past number of weeks, incidents relating to conflict between parties have become more common, and those about candidate selection have subsided a little. By and large, the incidents relating to conflict between parties have not been as serious as those occurring earlier in the campaign, such as the killing of Councillors in KwaZulu-Natal, when candidate selection disputes were at their height.
However, a further period of tension between parties is likely once the results are announced, particularly in municipalities where there has been a change in party control or where no party obtains a majority and coalition negotiations are required. The process of post-election candidate realignment is another potential cause of instability.
Other Potential Hotspot Areas
We have identified three metros that are, and remain, very high on the radar, if not for visible conflict and violence, then at least for potential swings that could lead to conflict and violence. These are Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. Parts of eThekwini remain a focus of tension and politcal intolerance, particularly in the hostels.
Beyond these metros, a number of other areas are potential hotspots for violence and other incidents: Buffalo City (due to become a Metro after the election) and Alfred Nzo District Municipality, both in the Eastern Cape; much of rural KwaZulu-Natal; Setsoto (Ficksburg), Moqhaka and Botshabelo in Mangaung in the Free State; Moutse in Limpopo; Midvaal in Gauteng and Tlokwe (Potchefstroom) in the North West.
• We are concerned about inflammatory and inappropriate messages from parties
• We are concerned about the media overstating and sensationalising issues.
• We are concerned about intolerance, intimidation, harrassment and disturbances.
• We are concerned about accessibilty, accountability and potentially unrealistic promises being made by politicians.
• We are concerned about attempts to impede the voting process.
A Call to South Africans
We commend the citizens, political parties, the IEC, CSOs, faith-based groups and the media for their overall conduct during the election campaign. We further call on all South Africans to create an environment which enables everyone to express their political views and to vote freely.
We call on the voters to:
• maintain their vigilance and not be drawn into conflict and violence;
• exercise their right as citizens to vote responsibly, after due reflection on all the options that are available;
• choose leaders who themselves will act responsibly and respect the office they are holding.
We call on the IEC to:
• continue to administer the election responsibly and with the utmost care;
• provide the nation with accurate and speedy results;
• provide speedy dispute resoultion after the election.
We call on the security forces to:
• conduct themselves with restraint, observing and upholding the rule of law in the conduct of their duties;
• protect citizens and their rights.
We call on political parties to:
• exhibit the level of maturity expected in a democratic society;
• call on their supporters to respect the election results in all localities;
• utilise the dispute mechanisms that have been put in place to contest results and the conduct of others, including the IEC, to uphold the rule of law under all circumstances;
• remain responsive and accountable between elections.
We call on the media:
• to recognise the level of maturity South Africa has reached as a democracy, to refrain from sensationalism, and to report appropriately and responsibly as expected in a mature democracy.
• We call on all young people to exercise their right to vote;
• We call on all employers to enable their employees, as well as their employees’ families, to exercise their right to vote, especially in the agricultural sector.
For media interviews: 1. Nkosikhulule Nyembezi, 082 429 4719; 2. Derrick Marco, 082 560 7026