QUEST FOR PEACEFUL, FREE AND FAIR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

With 13 000 candidates against the slightly less than 2 000 council seats up for grabs in the province for the August local government elections, competition is 'huge and serious'.

This was said by the KwaZulu-Natal Chief Electoral Officer, Mawethu Mosery while addressing a pre-election roundtable organised by Diakonia Council of Churches, on 21 June.

Though there are so many candidates, Mosery expressed concern at the quality of candidates for elections in the country generally, suggesting that there needs to be some criteria for selecting electoral candidates.

"The quality of the candidates for our elections is not the best that we can get as a country. It is really about who has influence in the party’s nomination process rather than about who is the best candidate. As a country, we need to start debating who qualifies to be elected councillor," he said.

Against the background of protests that rocked some parts of the province and the country because of dissatisfaction with candidate lists, Mosery said it is critical to ensure that the outcome of the elections is acceptable to all the candidates. He thus appealed to churches and civil society organisations to provide election observers at all polling stations. These, he said, will have access to all voting processes and can determine the legitimacy of the poll and convince the dissatisfied electorate to accept the results.

Mosery also stressed the importance of voter education that encourages people to go out and vote and enables them to make free choices. He lamented the high number of spoilt ballots which he said are often more than the number of votes needed for election into the provincial legislature.  Mosery also spoke about the voter turn-out for municipal elections which he said is always a lot lower than that of national and provincial elections.

Speaking on the prospects for peaceful elections in the province, KZN violence monitor, Mary de Haas said the elections are taking place in a context of violence. This context, she said, is intra-party violence in the ANC.

She noted that so far thirteen people have been killed in pre-poll violence and over sixty assassinated during violence relating to Glebelands Hostel. She added that tensions are going to escalate within the ANC as the elections approach and that should be cause for concern.

De Haas said, "We are sitting with a serious threat to democracy. The face of democracy is local government. Local government elections in South Africa are not about ensuring democracy or providing services to those who need them most. Being a councillor is about lining up one's pockets and dispensing patronage."