Govt assures elections will be free, fair in Nongoma

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nongoma - Government's security cluster has assured residents and political parties that everything would be done to ensure that next week's General Elections in hotspots such as Nongoma will be free and fair.

"We can confidently proclaim that the forthcoming democratic elections in KwaZulu-Natal will be conducted under a peaceful and fair environment.

"Our ground forces are ready to protect all citizens that will be voting on Election Day. They will also provide additional security support to the electoral officers of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)," Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa said.

Government's Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster (JCPS) was briefing the media on Friday on their state of readiness for the 2009 General Elections.

The minister said the province would remain within the watchful eye of the JCPS cluster until all election activities were over.

"We remain hopeful that besides the high number of recorded incidents, this province is under strict control and will deliver a peaceful and fair election.

"The leadership of the cluster will remain in the province even on Election Day to ensure maximum monitoring and speedy decision making," Minister Mthethwa said.

According to the JCPS, KwaZulu-Natal remains a major cause of concern especially in hotspots such as Nongoma, Ntabamhlophe, Ulundi, KwaDukuza, Greytown and Msinga.

However, a large number of anti-riot police and soldiers have been deployed in the province to unmask the perpetrators of political violence.

National intervention units have already successfully arrested 60 suspects in election related incidents.

In Limpopo, the minister was concerned about Moutse, where certain residents are demanding to be incorporated into the Mpumalanga province.

"This is indeed a major concern, but as a back-up we have unleashed the highest number of soldiers and back-up police to secure the area as well as possible assistance to the IEC personnel who might be intimidated," he said.

Defence Minister, Charles Nqakula said even though he is hopeful that there will be peaceful elections in Limpopo, he issued a stern warning to those who were intent on disrupting the elections.

"Our law enforcement is ready to respond accordingly to those who might attempt to disrupt the smooth running of the elections," he said.

He further assured the public that his department would deploy soldiers and police at all voting stations in hotspots, if the need arose.

"We've also prioritised election related cases and requested the Department of Justice to enforce strict bail conditions and speedy trials to those charged with breaching the electoral laws," Minister Nqakula said.

According to the JCPS, the Northern Cape and Free State provinces remain the most peaceful and less problematic.

The North West province is relatively calm and peaceful and the JCPS do not anticipate any major problem on Election Day.

According to the cluster, Mpumalanga is stable, peaceful and has no recorded element of threat.

The Eastern Cape is also calm, however, a contingency plan and technical readiness are in place for a smooth election. A police helicopter will also be deployed to the province as well as other equipment in the Butterworth area.

On Thursday, Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko announced that no amount of intimidation or violence will be tolerated during the elections.

"Government calls on all South Africans not to allow any attempt to prevent free, fair and peaceful elections in every corner of the country," he said.

Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) this week reassured IFP leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, that the upcoming elections will be as transparent as possible.

The IEC was responding to the allegations made by Mr Buthelezi that the upcoming elections will not be free and fair as a result of the recent spate of violence in Nongoma.