More wards up for grabs in Au­gust

Re­cent shifts in al­liances and in­tol­er­ance be­tween par­ties could lead to polls vi­o­lence

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOLOYISO MTEMBU

AU­GUST’S mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions will be char­ac­terised by more of ev­ery­thing, as fig­ures show an in­crease in the num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers, of po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­test­ing the polls and of vot­ing dis­tricts na­tion­ally and in the prov­ince.

Fig­ures re­leased by the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion show the num­ber of wards in the coun­try has in­creased to 22 612, up from 20 859 in the 2011 polls.

On the vot­ers’ roll are 26.3 mil­lion people reg­is­tered to cast their vote, 14.5 mil­lion of whom are women.

Ac­cord­ing to the IEC, there are more wards up for grabs too, from 4 277 in 2011 to 4 392 this year. Con­se­quently, there are at least 200 more seats be­ing con­tested in var­i­ous mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils, bring­ing the num­ber of seats to 9 041 na­tion­ally.

In the Western Cape, 20 000 staff have been re­cruited and trained to over­see the elec­tion process, along with 200 000 more coun­try­wide.

In the 25 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, 117 po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the high­est num­ber of po­lit­i­cal par­ties to date, will con­test 402 wards hop­ing to se­cure some of the 805 seats on the prov­ince’s coun­cils.

How­ever, the IEC an­nounced there would be fewer mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties af­ter the Au­gust poll – 257, down from 278 na­tion­ally. This de­crease in the num­ber of coun­cils also means a de­crease in the num­ber of key po­si­tions such as may­ors and mu­nic­i­pal man­agers, which may lead to dis­gruntle­ment over can­di­date lists.

With some parts of the coun­try al­ready volatile fol­low­ing vi­o­lent out­breaks in Gaut­eng and Lim­popo, the Western Cape, which has been largely sta­ble, has been warned of high-risk ar­eas.

Guy Lamb, di­rec­tor of UCT’s Safety and Vi­o­lence Ini­tia­tive, said while it was dif­fi­cult to ac­cu­rately pre­dict the na­ture and ex­tent of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in South Africa, party po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring had been a com­po­nent of re­cent protest vi­o­lence in Dunoon and Sir Lowry’s Vil­lage.

“These ar­eas are at high risk of fur­ther vi­o­lence in the com­ing months. Some parts of Khayelit­sha may also be at risk of such vi­o­lence, given the very re­cent shifts in po­lit­i­cal al­liances,” he said.

Vi­o­lence, Lamb con­tin­ued, was likely to be a prom­i­nent fea­ture of elec­tion­eer­ing in ar­eas where there were ac­ri­mo­nious re­la­tions and height­ened in­tol­er­ance be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and where fac­tions had split from the ma­jor­ity party.

“Ex­pe­ri­ence of the past two decades in­di­cates that un­der such cir­cum­stances some cam­paign­ing is likely to be dis­rupted or even pre­vented through the threat or use of vi­o­lence, as was the case in Tem­bisa ear­lier this week,” he said.

“Po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence tends not to oc­cur in ar­eas where there is mu­tual re­spect and tol­er­ance be­tween cam­paign­ing par­ties where con­flicts are re­solved through hon­est di­a­logue.

“Where there is dis­trust, in­tol­er­ance and a will­ing­ness to use un­der­hand tac­tics, in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence is highly likely,” Lamb added.

In the early 1990s, he said, civil so­ci­ety groups formed peace com­mit­tees which de­fused ten­sions be­tween var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“These peace com­mit­tees no longer ex­ist, but given the cur­rent lev­els of in­ter-party ten­sion and in­tol­er­ance to­wards cam­paign­ing by some par­ties in some com­mu­ni­ties, such com­mit­tees, or some­thing sim­i­lar, is clearly needed,” Lamb sug­gested.

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The 2016 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion in num­bers.

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