Political tensions worry IEC ahead of polls

THE Independent Electoral Commission in KwaZulu-Natal is worried about the stability of democracy because of political tensions that normally prevail before and after elections.

This was revealed by provincial electoral officer Mawethu Mosery during a community participation symposium in Durban yesterday.

The purpose of the conference, themed "community participation towards local government elections", was to create dialogue between councillors, civil servants, civil society and political party representatives ahead of local government elections next year.

It critically examined the current South African local government model and community partnership, looking more at the rhetoric of service delivery and poverty alleviation promoting inclusivity at local government level accountability and reporting mechanisms to the electorate.

Mosery said South Africa was running the risk of losing its democracy if it failed to enhance it.

"We need to start encouraging people to have dialogue. Dialogue will always prevent the protests we have witnessed in many parts of the country," Mosery said.

"I must emphasise that people don't just wake up and decide to protest, but the problem is that people only participate (vote) and forget. Go on holiday and when there's no water, they start saying the municipality is doing nothing."

He said another cause for concern for the IEC was the mentality of civil society, questioning the reasons for voting.

"Some people say why must I vote after I voted before. But I must warn them that by not participating in our democracy we run the risk of having presidents that will stay in power for 20 years, as has been the case in other African countries.

"People must not think that South Africa is immune to that. For as long as they don't want to vote it can happen," he warned.

Teddy Thwala of the UDM said it was important for communities to feel involved in and playing the role of advocacy.

"People must be mature enough to be immune from bribes when voting for councillors," he said.

ANC councillor Mthunzi Dlamini said it was important for all structures under Chapter 9 of the IEC to have an understanding of "participation".