More wards up for grabs in August
Recent shifts in alliances and intolerance between parties could lead to polls violence
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.
The 2016 municipal election in numbers.