The Democratic Alliance (DA) will not be intimidated by political thugs, party leader Helen Zille said on Thursday.
Zille alleged that the African National Congress (ANC) had bussed in supporters to Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga, where they barricaded a community hall in an attempt to stop her from speaking.
”It didn’t succeed. We simply pushed past them and got on with it. We will not be intimidated by political thugs,” she told a crowd at Embalenhle Stadium in Secunda, Mpumalanga.
”This election will be the most exciting yet. There is a new fluidity in South African politics. The ANC is the weakest it has been since 1994 and the opposition is growing stronger,” she said.
”The ANC knows this which is why it is mobilising its supporters to disrupt opposition party meetings and intimidate voters,” Zille said.
Party supporters were also threatened in another incident, Zille said.
”More disturbing was another incident yesterday [Wednesday] in Thembisile where I attended a house meeting at the home of a DA member.
”Once we had left the house, ANC supporters, away from the eyes of the media, stormed the house threatening to burn it down,” Zille said.
”This is nothing new from the ANC. Last year the ANC did burn down the house of DA activists in the Mogoba informal settlement on the East Rand,” she said.
However, ANC spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu denied the party was behind the alleged intimidation of the DA or any other parties.
She said: ”As a matter of principle, the ANC never at any point mobilised anyone to intimidate opposition parties. We do not mobilise people to do such things.
”If anyone can bring proof of any of our members being involved in such intimidation I can assure you that we will deal with it internally,” Zulu said.
Call for political tolerance
Political parties on Tuesday welcomed President Kgalema’s Motlanthe’s announcement that South Africans will go to the polls on April 22.
The President used the opportunity to call for tolerance during the election campaign. ”As we enter the season of elections, once again, we call upon all our people to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with our democratic ethos.
”Let us expand the floor for political tolerance, ensuring that in whatever we do we guarantee a climate of freedom of assembly, expression and association.
”The right of all political parties to campaign in a politically free atmosphere must be respected at all times,” he said.
But there is already fierce hostility brewing in KwaZulu-Natal, where renewed tensions have arisen between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
Violence broke out at the beginning of the month in the Ulundi and Nongoma areas, where the two parties held their election rallies.
ANC MP Prince Zebulon Zulu was shot in both legs and two people travelling with him were seriously injured, while other people were injured when buses and cars headed for the events were damaged.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, however, told the media after the violence ”that there was no massive crisis in the area”.
He said so far there were only isolated incidents.
He said the ANC would stage another rally in the area before the elections.
Mantashe dismissed suggestions that the ANC had provoked the violence by holding a rally next to where the IFP was hosting its rally.
”We must learn to accept that with 148 registered political parties in South Africa there could be four parties with activity in the same town. We are multiplying ourselves and it will happen more in the ANC because we are so many.”
Mantashe hinted that he believed that the IFP was causing the violence because it was threatened by the ruling party.
”We had a bigger rally than the IFP in Nongoma. It was a historic moment. We want to win that area of Nongoma and Ulundi.”
”The grievance arises from an accumulation of our experience on IFP violence and [its] hostile attitude towards the ANC every election since 1994.
”Our view is that the IFP has taken a deliberate long-term view that they will never allow the ANC to freely campaign in Ulundi and Nongoma, even if that results in the death of their opponents.”
Independent violence monitor in KwaZulu-Natal Mary de Haas is not surprised by the violence. ”There is ongoing low-level political intimidation in KZN between elections with an upsurge in the building up to them,” she said.
De Haas added that ”political intolerance is rife in areas with a history of violence where former IFP warlords maintain banks of voters by squashing political activity and freedom of association”.