IEC: Political parties must prevent violence

Political parties bear huge responsibility in ensuring the elections are free from violence and intolerance, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said on Wednesday.

”Political parties, themselves an instrument of democracy, bear huge responsibility to ensure that the environment in which elections are conducted is consistent with the values of multi-partyism and political plurality,” said IEC Gauteng provincial officer Sy Mamabolo.

”Robustness” in election campaigns should never lead to situations of conflict and violence, he said.

Mamabolo was speaking at a seminar on political intolerance hosted by the IEC in Benoni, to which the various political parties were invited.

The initiative came weeks after three African National Congress (ANC) members were shot and injured during a party rally in Nongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Six other ANC supporters were also injured when the buses they were travelling in to the rally were hit with stones.

Congress of the People members also claimed they were attacked by ANC supporters during party meetings in the past weekend.

The perceived political violence in KwaZulu-Natal had culminated in mud-slinging between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party, with each party laying the blame for the unrest at the other’s doorstep.

The IEC gave a detailed presentation of the Electoral Act as well as the responsibilities of political parties in ensuring that the election was free from violence.

”Robustness must mean indicating weaknesses in the other party’s manifesto, with a modicum of dignity.

”It should not mean that because we do not hold the same opinion, we are enemies who must eliminate each other,” Mamabolo said.

During a presentation on the IEC’s code of conduct, senior electoral officer Michael Hendrickse said every registered party and candidate was under obligation to comply with the IEC code.

Political parties were also bound to ”liaise with other contesting parties and endeavour to ensure that they do not call public meetings, marches, rallies, or other public political events at the same time or place”.

The National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Services were also due to give presentations at the seminar to highlight the role of the criminal justice system in enforcing compliance of the IEC’s code of conduct. — Sapa

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