Political assassinations, if not curbed, will threaten the credibility and fairness of the local government elections in less than a week’s time. Twenty-two years into democracy, it’s highly concerning that political violence is still claiming lives.
The ANC has been the worst hit, with its candidates allegedly being killed mainly by rivals within their own party.
So far, 13 ANC leaders and members have been killed in KwaZulu-Natal in the past four months. Two weeks ago, an ANC activist was killed and another critically wounded in Pietermaritzburg as they were leaving a local branch meeting in the city’s Imbali township.
The attack followed barely a week after Nathi Hlongwa, ANC branch chairperson for Ward 12 in the Msunduzi Local Municipality, was gunned down. On Tuesday night, ANC ward candidate Nceba Dywili was gunned down in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The mounting death toll has prompted the ANC to call for a commission of inquiry to be established into the killings. But the ruling party needs to do serious introspection into its own complicity in the violence, which has largely been attributed to the ANC leadership’s decision to impose some candidates on communities.
This has, in some cases, backfired spectacularly – most notably in Tshwane, where irate ANC members went haywire and torched property worth millions after Luthuli House announced Thoko Didiza as its capital city mayoral candidate.
In the same city, an ANC member took the party to court this week, claiming he was unduly replaced as a candidate. Lucas Ngobeni from Soshanguve was apparently nominated by his branch to stand as a councillor.
But to his surprise an “unknown” party member was made a candidate. Ngobeni filed an urgent application at the North Gauteng High Court. Testimonies from various ANC structures in the area stated that Ngobeni was elected with a majority of the vote to stand as councillor.
On Tuesday, the court found the ANC had violated its own constitution by failing to field a councillor candidate elected by its branch. The court ordered the ANC to ensure Ngobeni’s name appears on all electoral documents, ballots and publication.
What I found telling was the reaction of Ngobeni’s jubilant supporters who told The Sowetan that taking the matter to court was a prudent option, “rather than resorting to guns”.
This statement gives weight to claims that the undemocratic imposition of leaders of branches is one of the major contributory factors to the violence that has needlessly claimed dozens of lives.
Sidelining a leader chosen by the community exposes the one forced down their throats to harm, as witnessed in several parts of the country, especially violence-prone KZN.
Not many ANC branches would emulate what party members in Ward 89 of Soshanguve did by following the legal route to fight their battle. Violence has become disgruntled citizens’ most potent weapon of choice to settle disputes.
Some of the violence dogging the ANC might be eradicated if the party shows commitment to its central political and ideological programme – the Freedom Charter, whose preamble states, in part: “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”.