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More criticism for Kasrils's 'vote no' campaign

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Opposition parties and unions have condemned the "Vote No" campaign, saying spoiling votes was not a "viable tactic".

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils. (Gallo)

Opposition parties and workers unions reacted critically to former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils's "Vote No" campaign on Wednesday, as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) sought a legal opinion on the campaign for voters to spoil their ballots on May 7.

Kasrils and other ANC stalwarts launched a "Vote No" campaign on Tuesday, calling for voters to spoil their votes or vote for parties other than the ANC. Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge are leading the campaign, known as "Sidikiwe Vukani! (We are fed up, Wake up)".

Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota said while his party agreed that voters should take a stand against the ANC, it did not believe that spoiling votes was "a viable tactic".

Lekota said spoiling votes "disempowers voters and does not enable them to effect the change that the country needs".

Teacher union Sadtu said voting was a "hard-won Constitutional right". The union described the ANC veterans' call as "populist" and "irresponsible".

"A call for a no vote by Kasrils and crew is a vote of no confidence on democracy and a call of no confidence on law and order," read a Sadtu statement.

"This call is in fact against the establishment of a government and as such a call for anarchy."

Sadtu said it expected Kasrils, a veteran of the ANC, to value democracy and the importance of a vote to set up a government.

"Many people were tortured, imprisoned and died to secure this precious right to vote and it can't be destroyed on the altar of self interest."

Election participation
The South African Communist Party and Cosatu in their joint statement after a bilateral meeting called on workers to participate in elections.

"Electoral boycotting, or ill-conceived campaigns and manoeuvres to spoil ballot papers play straight into the hands of anti-worker, anti-union opposition parties and cannot be said to be progressive or revolutionary."  

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Wednesday criticised the "vote no" campaign, saying the move undermines the sacrifices made by opponents of apartheid.

Conduct that belonged to the jungle had emerged, he said as he opened the revamped Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court.

"We found it absurd that some, for whatever reason, suggest today that the democratic right to vote should be nullified en masse through the spoilt vote because some of those of our people who were in the trenches paid the ultimate price for our freedom and democracy," he said.

Radebe cited Solomon Mahlangu and slain SACP leader Chris Hani among the people that paid dearly to end apartheid.

On Tuesday, former ministers Ronnie Kasrils and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge launched the "Sidikiwe! Vukani! Vote no!" campaign at Wits University, appealing to South Africans not to vote for the ANC. 

The campaign calls on South Africans to either vote for a minority party, or spoil their ballot.

Critics
Radebe condemned ruling party critics, saying party members should protect the ANC's image both in and outside government. 

"There is a tendency which is gaining currency that anything negative can be propagated against the ANC and be attributed to the ANC government, but that the ANC government in general and the ANC in particular must not politically respond to these charges made against it."

Radebe said government was aware of its shortcomings and took responsibility for them.

The revamped court consists of three civil courts, two maintenance courts, a children's court, and facilities for administrative staff. Radebe said the R57-million facility underlined government's commitment to ensure access to justice for all.

He said the court had historical significance in being the venue of former president Nelson Mandela's appearance after his arrest in Howick in 1962.

Meanwhile, the bishop of Tshwane on Wednesday also condemned the "vote no" campaign started by some ANC veterans.

"In the past 20 years of our hard-earned freedom, I have never felt as failed as I am today by the stance taken by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy minister of health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, of mobilising people to spoil their votes rather than vote for the ANC," the Right Reverend Abraham Thamsanqa Sibiya said in a statement.

If it wasn't for the ANC
Both of them would be unknown had it not been for the ANC, he said.

"If the ANC were to lose three, 4% in this election they'll still be in power, nothing will stop that," Kasrils told reporters at the campaign's launch at Wits University, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

"But what that signals ... is that, my God you guys [ANC] better wake up ... you're not going to last for five years, you're losing more and more respect."

Sibiya said former ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, and Hani would turn in their graves at the mere suggestion that people should spoil their vote rather than vote for the ruling party.

"I call upon all the Christians and all the people of South Africa, to totally ignore the call of Ronnie Kasrils and his company.

"The vote we are exercising we fought for and many even paid the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

The Catholic Church urged people to vote as responsible citizens. "You will do this by voting and supporting those parties and organisations which work for the good of all our citizens," the Southern African Bishops' Conference said in a statement.

"Vote for political parties whose policies truly serve all our people, especially the poor and vulnerable." – Additional reporting by Sapa


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