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14 Feb 2009 17:06
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) launched its election manifesto on Saturday, promising to prevent the country from becoming what it called an autocracy under the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Violence erupted earlier this month after the ANC held a rally in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a key electoral area for the party and the IFP, the second largest opposition party.
Tensions between the ANC and Inkatha go back to the apartheid era when the two fought over control of KZN, the traditional home of ANC leader Jacob Zuma.
Thousands were killed in clashes between them at the time.
There are no signs that violence on that scale could be repeated in the run-up to the April 22 general election but the unrest is another unsettling factor for investors.
Addressing thousands of supporters in Durban, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said checks and balances were needed in the country, Africa’s biggest economy.
Otherwise, he said, South Africa could fall down “the present slippery slope towards autocracy, a one-party state and corruption”.
In the violence, ANC buses were stoned and a car carrying MP Prince Zeblon Zulu and two women was shot at, police said.
Party officials blamed the IFP, the second largest opposition party. The IFP denied it was responsible and Buthelezi said he was opposed to the violence and it would not be tolerated.
On Friday, Zuma and Buthelezi said in a joint statement they held a meeting condemning the violence and agreed to work together and exercise tolerance through the election period.
The ANC faces its most serious contest since apartheid ended in 1994, including a challenge from the Congress of the People (Cope) party, formed of defectors from the ruling party.
While Cope is not expected to win, it could break the ANC’s two-thirds majority in parliament, stopping it from being able to sweep through whatever legislation it wants.
Cope has opened up the political landscape in what some critics had described as akin to a one-party state.
But investors are concerned about uncertainty.
Zuma, who has done much to reassure markets nervous about his close ties to trade unions and the Communist Party, is expected to become president despite the fact that graft charges against him have been revived.
Voting takes place by party lists and whichever party gets the biggest share of the vote chooses the president.
ANC power struggles have overshadowed crucial issues such as widespread poverty, one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime and an HIV/Aids pandemic ravaging millions.
“People of this province know well that leopards do not change their spots.
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