Food vouchers abused

2009-03-15 00:00

The Election Monitoring Network (EMN), a network of independent civil society organisations, has identified the alleged use of food parcels as an election tool which threatens the election process.

The network, which deploys a team of 500 monitors nationwide to keep a lookout for election-related abuse or violence, has presented a list of threats, among them the abuse of social grants.

The warning comes against the backdrop of further allegations from KZN midlands towns that food parcels are being distributed to garner votes.

A midlands businessman has in his possession letters granting two of his employers food vouchers. He said his employees, who have worked for him for some time, arrived at work last week and asked for time off.

They were told that if they went to a certain place they would be given free food vouchers. They returned a short while later with letters and the vouchers allowing them to buy goods at a certain store.

The letters carried a SA Social Security Agency letterhead and, at the bottom, the reasons for the vouchers being handed out — the box with “waiting for grant” ticked.

The businessman said that neither of his workers had applied for grants.

The matter is being taken up with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The monitoring network has urged government departments to ensure that proper procedures are followed to identify the beneficiaries of social assistance and make sure that only individuals and families who are desperately in need of assistance actually get it.

The EMN warns that the 2009 poll will be unlike any other national election in South Africa’s history because for the first time rival political parties are contesting the same turf and canvassing the same constituencies.

Other potential election threats identified include xenophobia, which has been used as a campaigning tool by political parties in elections in other countries.

“South Africa has experience of what can happen if xenophobia leads to violence, particularly in poor communities where there are young, unemployed youths who could be easily persuaded to take part,” the network warns.

It urges the taxi industry and groups within the industry to refrain from using threats to disrupt the election in their dispute with the government over the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport System .

The EMN also advises the South African Police Service not to move staff around through redeployments and transfers at this time when stability is required. The network says that some tension spots in particular require police who are knowledgeable about the area and enjoy the respect of all sectors of the community.

Finally, the EMN says it has found instances of political parties pushing the IEC to take a partisan role in the hope that this will help them settle scores with other parties.

It says it has also identified attempts to de-legitimise the IEC and its work in some provinces and is concerned that this may be used as a ploy by political parties to reject the election results.

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