MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last week the IFP scored a stunning election victory in the ward 68 Merebank by-election. Our first-class local candidate, Ibrahim Shaik, prevailed over stiff competition from the DA, ID and ANC. The kaleidoscope has been shaken and old patterns of voting patterns are in flux as voters are searching for a credible alternative to the ruling-party. The IFP is breaking new electoral ground and we hope that our members will continue to work hard and be smart to replicate this success in forthcoming by-elections and the 2009 poll.
The by-election was also a salutary reminder of the need to hold free and fair elections if the majesty of democracy is to prevail. The IFP won despite the ruling-party machinations to unfairly influence the outcome.
Heinz De Boer reported in the Daily News last Thursday (May 24): “The IFP’s win has also thrown cold water on the ANC’s election ambitions amid continuing allegations of dirty tricks on the part of the ANC. The allegations were made after Department of Social welfare food parcels were handed to ward 68 residents this week. Those handing out the parcels had been wearing ANC T-shirts emblazoned with slogans encouraging people to vote for [Samson] Maistry [the ANC candidate]”. It has also been reported that ruling-party supporters were bussed from neighbouring Chatsworth to Merebank.
When the former DA leader, Tony Leon hosted other opposition leaders for drinks after the 2004 election, I recall the late Malizole Diko, then UDM Secretary-General, revealing to us how ANC officials in Umlazi invited the UDM to bus their supporters into Umlazi to vote repetitively because they did not pose the same electoral threat as the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal.
Democracy, imperfect, as Churchill memorably reminded us that it is, can only be as strong as its weakest link. South Africa, the continent’s economic and political powerhouse, I fear, is failing to set an example to a continent that has been blighted by electoral fraud and intimidation. I cannot think of a single example where an election has been held in Africa that meets the gold standard test of being truly “free and fair”.
Zimbabwe has become the premier textbook example of tainted electoral processes. Only the IFP component of the South African Observer Mission and Dr Brigalia Bam of the IEC, alongside the European Union Mission, declared that the 2002 election was not “free and fair”. All African states, including South Africa, endorsed the result. The most recent example of a flawed election is Nigeria.
I salute former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the newly elected president for candidly admitting that April’s presidential vote was characterised by voting irregularities, acts of intimidation and open rigging. Such raw honesty, on the part of an African leader, is rare. This came after the US-based International Republican Institute observer mission said the entire election process had failed to meet international standards. It’s preliminary findings showed that the election processes “fell below the standard set by previous Nigerian elections and international standards witnessed by IRI around the globe”.
Here in South Africa, the IFP has been a victim of electoral fraud since 1994. In the absence of a voters roll, vote rigging was so widespread in the 1994 general election that the IEC announced the electoral results whilst counting was still taking place in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Boxes full of ballots were transported to centres where counting was taking place. Thousands of boxes containing IFP votes were scattered all over the valleys and hills of northern KwaZulu-Natal, never to reach their destination where counting took place.
No wonder President FW de Klerk was to describe our first democratic election as being an “impressionist” one. I thought that was too kind.
The same pattern was repeated at the local government elections of 1996. These elections were held in KwaZulu-Natal a year later than the rest of the country because, I maintain, to enable the ANC to concentrate its national resources in KwaZulu-Natal, which stubbornly remained outside of the ambit of the ruling-party.
Electoral fraud against the IFP in the 1999 general election was fully documented and presented to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The IEC took the strange position that there was nothing they could do because the relevant deadlines according to the Electoral Act had lapsed. Talk about the letter of the law usurping the spirit of the law. One would have thought that the sacrosanct principles of free and fair elections would have been paramount.
This widespread fraud was clearly documented by an IFP Member of parliament, Ms Janet Vilakazi, who showed that in elections for district by electoral district, votes cast for the IFP (up to a million) were, in fact, shifted to the ANC and other parties. In the same voting stations, the IFP received thousands of votes for the national ballot but apparently received zero votes in provincial elections. This was absurd.
The 2004 election election was again characterised by examples of widespread electoral fraud in KwaZulu-Natal. Entire ballot boxes, by way of example, were filled in with already pre-marked ballot papers in favour of the ANC to the extent that in certain areas the vote cast far exceeded even the ordinary inhabitants.
I suspect we have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg.
It is not surprising that voter fraud can flourish when one is aware that many employees of the IEC are aligned to the trade unions. This is a clear conflict of interest and brings into question the IEC’s statutory obligation to be independent. Teachers, who are members of SADTU and COSATU, manned polling stations in the election. Pupils, for example, were caught marking ballot papers in Mkhanyakude.
The IFP fully documented these irregularities at the Electoral Court. The IFP could not pursue the case because of narrowly defined technicalities. Nor could we prove that the result would be “materially” different in terms of the electoral law. Yet, I felt, morality was defeated.
We also felt that we should not be seen to be creating “trouble” for the sake of it. I was to be severely rebuked by my party for not pursuing this case to the bitter end.
I recount this sorry saga not to fight old battles, but in the hope that we ensure that the 2009 elections are “free and fair”. This is of importance not only to the vitality of our democracy, but also to the entire continent.
The NRI report, which I cited earlier, concluded that “neither the spirit of Nigerians who went to the polls to cast their ballots nor the dedication of the thousands of poll workers struggling to execute their responsibilities in polling stations were matched by their leaders”.
I plead that this will not be said of us in 2009. Let our leaders execute their responsibilities in accordance with the spirit of all South Africans who love democracy.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP