Rival says South Africa's ANC attacked its members
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) on Friday accused its long-time rival, the ruling ANC, of employing "terror tactics" and wounding 13 of its members in attacks ahead of next week's general election.
Tensions between the parties go back to the apartheid era when the two fought over control of KwaZulu-Natal, the traditional home of ANC leader Jacob Zuma's Zulu tribe. He is expected to become president after the April 22 poll.
Thousands of people were killed in clashes at the time. There are no signs that violence on that scale will be repeated in the election period.
Although some analysts who have been monitoring violence in volatile KwaZulu-Natal -- the most populous province and the centre of the sugar and shipping industries -- are concerned over signs of looming conflict before the poll.
"The ANC, carrying all sorts of dangerous weapons and in the company of the SAPS (South African Police Service), invaded houses of IFP members under the pretext that they were campaigning," Blessed Gwala, IFP member of the Provincial Legislature of KwaZulu-Natal, said in a party statement.
"Instead, they assaulted people and thirteen of them got injured."
The ANC is on course to win the election, but faces its biggest test since coming to power at the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
Party dissidents formed the new COPE party, hoping to tap into widespread frustrations with ANC corruption scandals and its record on crime, poverty and AIDS. But after an initial political buzz the party has lost steam, analysts say.
Critics of South Africa's political system say it has effectively become a one-party state because people vote for parties, not leaders, giving the ANC, still respected for its anti-apartheid struggles, an advantage.
The ANC denied the IFP accusations that it carried out attacks, saying the IFP was desperate.
"It's lies. It's lies, it's all lies. IFP lies. They know they are going to lose the election," said ANC provincial spokeswoman Nomfundo Mcetywa.
Ministers of safety, security, intelligence and defence said they would keep a close eye on KwaZulu-Natal, where 60 suspects have been arrested in relation to the election and nine people have been killed over the past few weeks, SAPA news agency said.
Security forces found firearms including AK-47s, it said.
"We remain hopeful that besides the high number of recorded incidents, the province is under strict control and will deliver a peaceful and fair election," SAPA quoted Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa as saying.
Violence has flared in KwaZulu-Natal in the run-up to the vote, prompting IFP and ANC leaders to call for tolerance.
"It is very clear to us as the IFP that we will have to contend with the ANC terror tactics until the end of the elections," said the IFP statement.
"And obviously, we will have to fend for ourselves because state institutions have become branches of the ANC."
In February, the IFP said an election organiser was shot dead in what seemed to be a politically driven attack.
Violence erupted earlier that month after the ANC held a rally in northern Zululand, a key electoral area for it and for the IFP, the second largest opposition party.
ANC buses were stoned and a car carrying member of parliament Prince Zeblon Zulu and two women was shot at on that occasion, police said. ANC officials blamed the IFP which denied it was responsible.
Brigalia Bam, chair of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), told African election observers that measures were in place to prevent violence in KwaZulu-Natal.
"They (authorities) have deployed a lot of police in some key areas because they have concerns for the safety of voters. They have concerns for the safety of observers."
(Additional reporting by Sandiso Ngubane in Pretoria)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this