Richmond gets it right

2009-04-22 00:00

IN the recent past Richmond was a notorious hotspot and the site of some of the most horrific and sustained political violence imaginable. But yesterday, the KwaZulu-Natal town was a model of peaceful and tolerant voting.

“We’ve come full circle,” said local municipal speaker Andrew Ragavaloo, who served as mayor during some of the Richmond’s violent history.

“So far we’ve not enountered any problems,” he said at around lunch time yesterday, shortly after a meeting with the IEC in the area.

Ragavaloo, chair of the local ANC branch, was full of praise for the way the rural village has managed to rise above its violent past. “It’s an absolute turnaround. Eleven years ago we were trapped in a spiral of violence. Today … there’s acceptance of the rights of other political parties”.

Ragavaloo, who last year published a book — Living in the Shadow of Death — about his experiences as mayor in Richmond during 1997 and 1999, said there was a sense of excitiment and patience among the people waiting in the long queues outside the Agricultural Hall, where about 2 800 people were expected to cast their votes. “We’ve not even had a report of queue-jumping,” he said.

Highlighting the relaxed atmosphere, Ragavaloo said people known not to be ANC supporters were asking for information from ANC campaigners outside the voting station and there was no tension between rival party agents.

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