The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) applauds South Africans for the peaceful nature of the municipal elections. This attests to the maturity of our democracy and we take pride in both our citizens and leaders for the manner in which the Election Day unfolded.
CSVR has been concerned about the dramatic upsurge in political killings in Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) and the violent protests that happened in Tshwane and other areas ahead of the local government elections.
South Africans must now urgently reflect on this and come up with solutions to prevent such violence from recurring.
CSVR research has shown that the violence was fuelled by lack of service delivery, failure of government to respond to the concerns of communities and communities' frustration over the selection of political candidates. CSVR is also concerned about the impact of campaigning on future social cohesion, specifically the divisive language often used by political leaders during campaigning.
High expectations were generated during campaigning. Voters placed their hope and trust in the hands of political leaders. Such increased expectations, if unmet, could feed into the already existing levels of agitation and frustration and then, translate into increased levels of violence in the coming months and years.
Despite the peaceful climate on Election Day, several urgent and pertinent questions remain. The greatest of which is what action will be taken by government to address these issues once the electoral process has come to an end? How will the elected local government officials and broader community leadership foster social cohesion and address longstanding and deepening divisions that were amplified prior to and during campaigning?
Capacity building for the newly elected officials is a priority. Leaders must improve their ability to listen and engage with the citizenry to ensure more inclusive and responsive social and civic relations. Communities also need to take responsibility by demanding accountable and responsive leadership at community level.
Most importantly, leaders need to remain visible and accessible; they must be able to interact with communities regularly – not only during election campaigns. In order to effectively address violence in our communities, there must be a shift from campaigning to governing!