Opening shots

2008-08-19 00:00

THE opening shots of the 2009 election campaign were fired this past weekend, shots both figurative and, unfortunately, literal. The African National Congress (ANC) held a rally at the King Goodwill Zwelithini stadium in Umlazi on Saturday. As the crowd dispersed afterwards, shots were fired, one of which struck a Pietermaritzburg teenager, Wanda Phelakho, in the head as he tried to take cover behind a bus. On the other side of the political divide, Bhekisisa Mthethwa, chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) branch at Jacobs Hostel, was shot three times in the head and body at 4.30 am at Montclair Railway Station in Durban as he was on his way to work.

Even in the most stable of democracies, elections are times of agitation and volatility. South Africa is no exception and KwaZulu-Natal is a particularly dangerous place. Indeed, the run-up to the 1994 election saw what was in effect a low-grade civil war between the ANC and the IFP with thousands of people being killed in political violence.

The 2009 election is likely to be especially dangerous. On the one hand, the IFP is likely to go all out to recapture the province it lost in 2004. The forthcoming election will also be complicated by having the fate of Jacob Zuma, leader of the ANC and potential president of South Africa, in the balance. With the chairman of the ANC Youth League having already urged his followers to “kill for Zuma”, whatever happens to Zuma could well be a catalyst for further political mayhem.

In this situation, there is a need for responsible political leadership of the highest calibre. Zuma has earned great kudos in the past by proving a major peacemaker in this province. Now, as then, he needs to separate his personal legal problems from other issues, to speak out firmly against allowing political disagreements to degenerate into violence and keep his hot-blooded adherents firmly in check. The IFP leadership, for its part, needs to be equally unequivocal in asserting that democracy is a process of counting heads, not breaking them, and that thuggery should have no place in it.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.