ANC gets frosty reception

It appears it will be a while before the African National Congress is welcomed with open arms into Ulundi, the traditional stronghold of the Inkatha Freedom Party, if Saturday’s response to an ANC election campaign is anything to go by.

A large group of IFP supporters attempted to disrupt an ANC meeting in the KwaZulu-Natal town. The group, which chanted “elephants”—the slogan of the IFP—had to be pushed back by riot police armed with batons, rifles and shields. Ulundi Mayor Zanele Magwaza, dressed in an IFP T-shirt, had a difficult time trying to keep the group from rushing police.

The ANC spent Saturday in Ulundi and nearby Melmoth urging people to vote for the party in the April 14 election.
A heavy police contingent was present throughout the campaign. Earlier the ANC claimed that Ulundi residents were threatened not to show any support for the party.

“We received information from sources on the ground that houses would be attacked,” ANC provincial spokesperson Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said. “We did not want to put people’s lives in danger.”

This was in reaction to reporters asking why the ANC was not visiting people in their homes as they had done in other election campaigns. Residents looked scared and said they would not talk to the media.

The ANC spent the morning putting up party election posters on poles and handing out pamphlets to residents who would accept them.

Asked why the ANC was only putting up posters now, Mthimkhulu said the party had previously put up posters, which had been removed.

“We know that these posters will also be removed, but we know the ANC won’t be removed from the hearts of our people,” Mthimkhulu said. The IFP was also accused of blocking an ANC convoy in the town’s suburbs. However, police intervened and the motorcade was allowed to proceed.

Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula, who was speaking to the small crowd of ANC supporters when the IFP attempted to disrupt the gathering, told reporters later it was up to the Ulundi branch of the ANC to open a case of intimidation if it felt the need.

Asked if the ANC would lay a charge against the IFP, Prince Bhekizizwe Zeblon Zulu, who heads the local ANC branch, said a meeting would first be held on the matter with leaders of the branch.

“We will have to see if we can identify any of the IFP supporters. There is no point of going to the police station and laying a charge if you don’t know who the people are,” he said.

However, the IFP laid a charge against the ANC at Ulundi police station on Saturday. Provincial IFP spokesperson Blessed Gwala said the charge was against the ANC for allegedly removing his party’s posters from poles along King Dinizulu highway.

“We are surprised that the ANC are accusing us of intimidation, yet some of their people were seen removing the posters of the president of the IFP, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.”

He said the ANC did have a presence in Ulundi, although scarce, “so how can they say they are being intimidated?”.

Gwala said the IFP believed that Nqakula leading Saturday’s campaign was an instruction by President Thabo Mbeki, who last week called for the arrests of anyone disrupting political gatherings.

“Unfortunately for them, there was no one for them to arrest.”

Gwala described the ANC’s campaign as “promoting tourism” as the party did not stop and speak to locals to establish their concerns.

Election monitors from the KwaZulu-Natal Election Forum, made up of NGOs, were present throughout the campaign and planned to report back to their bosses.

Saturday was the first time the ANC has taken its election campaign “in full force” to Ulundi since the 1994 election, which saw the deaths of two party activists.—Sapa

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