Author: CSVR

 

Political Violence: A Threat to South African Democracy

South Africa’s democracy faces a severe threat from growing incidences of politicallymotivated violence across the country, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) executive director Nomfundo Mogapi cautioned yesterday (WED).

Mogapi, chairing a public seminar addressing the theme of “violence and politics” in South Africa, expressed concern for the peaceful conclusion of the ANC elective conference that will commence in less than 10 days.

“We have a society where there is a very strong history between power, politics and violence; if that is the society we have, then we cannot go blindly into the ANC elective conference,” warned Mogapi, referring to the high levels of contestation surrounding the December conference.

In August, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, responding to a parliamentary question from the EFF, said that between 2009 and August 2017, five councillors in the Eastern Cape, one in the Free State, four in Gauteng, seven in Mpumalanga, three in the North West, one in the Western Cape and 24 in KwaZulu-Natal had been killed.

CSVR organised a seminar in response to this violence, the seminar saw presentations from Athandiwe Saba, Mail & Guardian Journalist; Sonwabo Gqegqe, acting Executive Manager for Parliamentary Affairs at the South African Local Government Association (SALGA); and Simanga Sithebe, the executive director of Sinani in KwaZulu-Natal.

Gqegqe, discussing the recent SALGA report, Violence in Democracy, revealed how the majority of threats against local government councillors stemmed from community members (21%), other political parties (18%) and some political party opposition (20%). While the report recognised service delivery, municipal elections and employment as being behind the threats, Gqegqe drew clear parallels with the enduring violent legacies of colonialism.

“Part of what it did [colonialism] was to create a particular culture of dealing with problems,” said Gqegqe, describing those moments when political dialogue is supplanted by violence.

Saba also traced aspects of violence between members of the ANC to the organisation’s liberation party roots, stressing that the party’s unique history has a role to play in the violent intra-party contestation in KZN. She noted the prevalence of iinkabi (paid assassins) in KZN and how such dangerous individuals have been employed to carry out political killings.

Sithebe, also speaking to the KZN experience of political violence, told of the trauma inflicted on communities by iinkabi. He raised concerns about the high number of illegal guns “in the hands of the wrong people” and corrupt relations between police and alleged criminals.

“There is also a dangerous trend developing [with] anarchy and the alleged corrupt relationships between criminals and Law Enforcement Authorities,” he said.

Closing the session, Mogapi encouraged seminar participants to ask their leaders to ensure that mechanisms are in place to prevent violence in the days leading up to, and during, the elective conference.

“Turning to violence as a way of expressing dissatisfaction is not a solution as it has dire implications for citizens and state institutions,” said Mogapi.

 

Issued by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
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