Voter violence at KZN polls

2009-03-06 00:00

Acts of political violence and intolerance between the IFP and ANC have resulted in two people getting shot and taken to hospital during the by-election contested by the two parties in the Imbabazane Municipality on Wednesday.

The parties contested ward three, which was held by the ANC and became vacant after the death of the ward councillor.

The ward was won by a narrow margin of just 25 votes by the IFP.

Both parties have blamed the outbreak of violence, which saw vehicles belonging to both parties being pelted with stones and car windows and side mirrors being damaged, on the other.

The Witness has also learnt that a police superintendent from Estcourt and a member of the provincial legislature were injured in the scuffles.

Sources told The Witness that the area surrounding Imbabazane and Estcourt is far “more tense than Nongoma”.

Acts of intimidations by the parties started in the morning when voters made their way to the voting stations, and violence broke out at 3 pm and intensified at night.

It is alleged that IFP supporters stopped ANC voters from going to the polls and sang songs that discredited ANC president Jacob Zuma.

In turn, said the sources, the ANC sang songs that defamed Mangosothu Buthelezi.

According to an eye witness, an IFP convoy, led by uMtshezi Mayor Lymon Shelembe, waited until dark to begin hitting cars belonging to non-IFP members with knobkerries. As they hurled stones, the vehicle belonging to Wembezi’s station commander was damaged and Estcourt’s acting station commander was apparently bruised. It is also alleged that ANC MPL Winile Zondi was assaulted by a manager in Shelembe’s office.

According to uMtshezi Municipality speaker Phiwokwakhe Sokhela (ANC), who was deployed to monitor the by-election, signs of violence were already brewing by 3 pm. Sokhela said IFP supporters began singing “derogatory” songs about Zuma and that ANC supporters in turn sang about Buthelezi.

Sokhela said an IFP delegation led by uThukela District Mayor S.M. Sithole told the ANC supporters to stop singing.

“They [IFP] also asked us to leave the area because we were not from Imbabazane. I told them that I was deployed by my party to monitor the by-election but they insisted that we leave. The car I was driving was hit with stones from the IFP supporters as we were leaving and I drove away to safety,” said Sokhela.

Imbabazane councillor Phindile Strydom (ANC), an election monitor, claims that violence broke out after reports that the ANC had won in three of the five voting stations.

However, Imbabazane Mayor Hlanganani Dlamini said the ANC resorted to violence when it lost the by-election. He rubbished allegations that the IFP incited violence.

KZN police spokeswoman Director Phindile Radebe confirmed that two people, an ANC and an IFP supporter, were shot and injured in related incidents outside the voting station areas.

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