Conflicts threaten to disrupt poll

2009-03-30 00:00

The Election Monitoring Network (EMN) has recorded more than 40 incidents of election related conflict that it claims threaten to derail the election process.

The latest report from the EMN’s 500 monitors around the country cites examples of communities in cross-border municipalities threatening to boycott the elections if their areas are not returned to their original provinces.

Another boycott is threatened in Mseleni and Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal over a land dispute, and there are cases of reported land grabbing and illegal occupation of vacant land in Phutanang and Vergenoeg (Northern Cape), which are allegedly being condoned because politicians are reluctant to risk losing voter support.

Five reports of murders linked to political rivalry were recorded by EMN monitors in the Eastern Cape and KZN. Monitors in KZN also recorded instances of traditional leaders denying political parties the right to hold meetings in their areas and forcing their subjects to join certain political parties or face eviction.

These details were released yesterday by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, and members of the EMN steering committee. The EMN is a network of independent civil society organisations that aims to ensure that elections are conflict-free. The network has warned political parties not to politicise community conflicts and manipulate everyday community tensions into political disputes in an effort to garner votes.

It has also urged the Independent Electoral Commission to investigate all allegations and publicise the findings.

The EMN further called on religious bodies to refrain from taking party political stands saying this can divide the people of South Africa.

“We appeal to the religious community to play a positive role in this election period, maintain a high moral ground and not be tempted to take political sides.

“Almost all South Africans profess some religious affiliation and therefore religious institutions must shy away from taking party political positions on behalf of their members,” the network said in its statement yesterday. — Witness Reporter.

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