DURBAN - POLITICAL parties in KwaZulu-Natal are gearing up for hotly contested by-elections, due to take place next month.
The IEC announced the province as the sole setting for what is to be the first campaign of re-electing councillors into power, with the first round on February 2 in the closely guarded ward 17 and 20 of Nongoma as well as eThekwini’s ward 101.
Thabani Ngwira, of the Electoral Commission of SA in KZN, confirmed the by-elections, three of which are due to deaths.
“The death of councillors has resulted in vacancies in three of the four wards that are being contested. Only one vacancy arose in Okhahlamba as a result of an elected councillor’s resignation. These councillors were elected after their deaths. Because this occurred during an election, the first seating to form a council was required, and the municipal managers were required to declare vacancies. According to the commission’s rules, a by-election must be held within 90 days of a vacancy being declared,” said Ngwira.
He said the areas affected by violence were being closely monitored in an intelligence-driven operation.
“The commission is working with Joint Security Structures and law-enforcement authorities, to assess the situation on the ground in all of the communities affected. Once that assessment is completed, a decision on the deployment of these forces will be made,” said Ngwira.
Nongoma’s ward 17, met tragedy before the local government elections when National Freedom Party’s (NFP) Dumisani Qwabe was shot and killed. Qwabe was eventually elected to councillor despite his death.
Canaan Mdletshe, the secretary-general of the NFP in KZN, said the party’s Sunnyboy Mbatha will contest the upcoming by-elections at the ward, and that the party was “beefing up security” for the safety of their candidate.
“Our candidates have prepared exceptionally well and as the organisation, we are optimistic that we will keep our ward.
“As part of the vigorous campaign, we have mandated and in fact instructed all our leaders to go and literally camp in Nongoma from the 15th of January until the day of the elections.
“We are obviously leaving nothing to chance and we (are) therefore beefing up security around our candidate to ensure his safety. We will also be relying heavily on police, especially intelligence agencies to play their part in securing the safety of our candidate in both ward 17 and ward 20,” said Mdletshe.
Ward 101, comprising Cato Crest, Berea and Glenmore, in eThekwini Municipality, will also be there for the taking after the killing of councillor Siyabonga Mkhize two weeks before the local government elections, last year.
Mkhize, who was killed during a door-to-door campaign last October, won the ward.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson, Nhlakanipho Ntombela, described the incident which led to Mkhize’s death as “pure criminality” which had never been experienced before.
“These killings of councillors should not be categorised as just politics, but should be seen as what they are, pure criminality. Therefore, as the ANC we are confident going into the election that this criminality will be avoided. We are happy with all selected candidates in the entire province, not just eThekwini. There is no fear of death at this moment,” said Ntombela.