'War talk breaks the code of conduct'

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

As the country gears up for the national elections on April 22, the Independent Electoral Commission in Kwazulu-Natal has again appealed to political parties in the province to refrain from war talk.

The commission's provincial head Mawetu Mosery said he was concerned that political leaders' rhetoric on the campaign trail "was not in line with the electoral code of conduct".

He said leaders should understand that the code was "only as good as parties' respect for it" or how they undermined it.

"They need to promote tolerance and respect," Mosery said.

The electoral code of conduct promotes free and fair elections, including tolerance, free political activity and campaigning. It also denounces the destruction of billboards, placards and posters.

Mosery said the code was implemented by conflict management committees that mediated disputes.

They encouraged amicable settlements of electoral disputes, and unresolved matters were sent to the electoral court. Those who broke the provisions of the code could be sentenced to a fine or jail.

Victims could press criminal charges at police stations.

Political commentator Zakhile Ndlovu said parties did not respect the code because it lacked "teeth".

"Politicians who break the law do so knowing they have the money, power and connections to get off lightly," Ndlovu said.

"But if they knew they would be spending a good many years in jail they would refrain from all the political banter that leads to violence."

Idasa's executive director Paul Graham said all political parties should subscribe to the code and instruct their supporters "to comply" with its provisions.