IEC turns to God for free, fair elections
Mbombela - Nearly 50 different religious leaders in Mpumalanga will lead an interfaith prayer day on Saturday for "free and fair" local government elections on May 18.
The event, which will take place at the Nelspruit Rugby Stadium in Mbombela, is expected to attract more than 1 000 people.
"Over the past number of months, we have developed a strategic prayer strategy for the upcoming municipal elections.
"Our vision is to establish an effective and strategic prayer network across the province that will pray without bias or prejudice for God’s will, direction, and purpose to be accomplished during the elections," said provincial Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) spokesperson Sibusiso Nkosi on Wednesday.
Nkosi said the IEC opted for an interfaith prayer in order to accommodate different voices from different religious communities in the province.
He said religious leaders had a positive role to play in encouraging communities to participate peacefully in the elections, which will ensure that there are no disruptions or any violence.
"The most important fact we need to understand is that whatever the outcome of the elections, all our human hopes ultimately lie in God’s hands.
"So, we felt it was necessary to organise the prayer day to ask him to guide us," he said.
Nkosi said 11 gospel artists had been invited to entertain the crowd throughout the day.
He said the IEC generally expected the elections to go smoothly as there had been no reports of major incidents of violence associated with the upcoming elections, except for claims by the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the ANC was intimidating opposition candidates.
Provincial DA leader Anthony Benadie released a press statement last week claiming that the ANC sought to block DA electioneering activities and also threatened to kill DA candidates should they win the elections.
However, the ANC rubbished the claims and accused Benadie and the DA of using such claims as "strategies to gain public sympathy" because they knew they would not defeat the ANC in the elections.
Meanwhile, Benadie released a statement and photos on Monday, in which he accused ANC Treasurer General Mathews Phosa of attempting to disrupt a DA campaign in Matsulu.
Provincial ANC spokesperson Paul Mbenyane denied Benadie 's claims, saying the ANC had long planned its own campaign in Matsulu and that Phosa had a right to campaign anywhere in the province.
"We also had a right to campaign in Matsulu just like them, so it is not really fair for them to blame the ANC for their misfortunes in that township.
"The DA should realise that people in the townships will always see them as oppressors and they will always be sceptical about them. We will end up not responding to any DA allegations against the ANC because they are using us to boost their profile," said Mbenyane.
At least 18 parties and more than 46 independent candidates in the province are expected to contest the province's 18 local municipalities and three district municipalities.