Durban – At least 11 000 people in KwaZulu-Natal will not become councillors after the August 3 local government elections as a result of the demarcation process. The challenge, said the Electoral Commission of South Africa in the province, will be to ensure that this does not give rise to widespread protests.
Provincial IEC chairperson Mawethu Mosery, who was speaking during a discussion at the Diakonia Council of Churches Roundtable on the prospects for peaceful elections in KZN, said this increased the importance of ensuring a free and fair poll where the outcome could be trusted.
He said on Tuesday the commission was ready to host free and fair elections.
- Election Map: Previous KwaZulu-Natal results
In this year's local government elections KwaZulu-Natal has fewer municipalities because of the demarcation process, which saw the dismantling of seven municipalities.
In the 2011 local government elections, the province had 50 category C municipalities [local municipalities] and the number would have dropped to 43 as of August 3.
"This means seven municipalities have disappeared and merged with others because of the viability. Obviously there is an emotional attachment and [attachment to] power because there are seven people who would have been mayors or speakers and they have lost out because of the demarcation process."
More council seats
He said there was dissatisfaction in the dismantling of those municipalities, but KZN was better off than other provinces because the process was started in 2011 and concluded in 2013.
"It is not a new phenomenon [in KZN], whereas in Vuwani and Gauteng the discontinuing of some municipalities is new and hence the tensions we are seeing.
"In the province we have ended up with more wards than 2011, we had 828 in 2011 and we now have 870."
He said while the province had seen a decrease in municipalities, it had ended up with more council seat positions - 1 864 councillor seats compared to 1 614 in the previous election.
When the commission concluded the candidate nomination lists processes on June 2, it ended up with 13 000 candidates.
"I already know that 11 000 people will not become councillors. The question is how do we ensure that those 11 000 who are not going to get council seats are going to accept the election outcome and have no reason to protest and say they do not like the outcome.
"The proficiency in our team in ensuring that we come out with an outcome that is not questionable is top of our minds as we work."
Tensions within parties
He said one of the challenges around the election was the internal tensions within political parties during the process of candidate nomination and submission.
He said Monday's court ruling on the Pan Africanist Congress leadership was also proving to be a challenge.
According to an SABC report, the High Court in Pretoria on Monday dismissed with costs an application by former PAC leader Letlapa Mphahlele for leave to appeal an earlier court judgment, recognising as official the PAC faction led by the current president Luthando Mbinda.
Mosery said the challenge now was that the candidate submission processes was closed.
"We are not going to take a list from two separate factions - they must go to court and sort it out in court and once the court has ruled who the legitimate leader is, then bring your lists.
But we have a problem because the court only ruled yesterday [Monday] on the matter.
A lot to consider for voters
"We closed nomination processes on June 2, so now we have to debate today [Tuesday] whether they are in or out of the process. But I believe that they should be included, we might have to go to court and ask it to allow us to take their list."
He said in KZN 25 political parties had registered to contest the elections, compared to 18 in the last elections.
"The growth is not phenomenal and the voters have a huge choice. They have to listen to 25 different manifestos and on top of that, we have 100 independent candidates who will present their own manifestos. Voters have a lot to go through."
He said the environment in which voters voted was also a major contributor to whether a vote is free and fair or not.
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