On Saturday‚ the first round of voter registration for the May 24 by-election takes place‚ and parties have begun campaigning in earnest — though locals remain sceptical about party promises.
The by-election has become necessary because the council was still hung six months after the local government elections‚ and the MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs‚ Nomusa Dube-Ncube‚ took the controversial decision in February to dissolve it.
The IEC says so far more than 70‚000 voters are eligible to vote in the by-election‚ and this could rise as it will hold other voter registration days ahead of the poll.
Mawethu Mosery‚ head of the IEC in KwaZulu-Natal‚ said the commission was ready to preside over the by-elections.
He said the IEC would be working with the police and political parties to ensure people are not bussed in from other areas to vote in Nquthu. “We will be using an electronic system to ensure that people who will be voting here are not registered elsewhere.”
Political parties contesting the by-election have begun campaigning hard‚ but a recent visit to the area by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet — led by premier Willies Mchunu — provoked accusations of foul play.
Opposition parties criticised the visit as a ploy by the ruling party to use state resources and government platforms to bolster the ANC’s electoral message.
Zwakele Mncwango‚ DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal‚ said: “The provincial ANC government is unashamedly using the government’s position to campaign for the party. It is well-known fact that the provincial government had not intervened to offer solutions when the ANC councillors were busy disrupting council seatings whose aim were to elect municipal officials. Now that the by-elections have been declared the premier rushes there with all his cabinet to talk to local people.
“But we strongly believe that the people of Nquthu will see through this ruse and punish the ANC for destabilising service delivery just so that it can grab power.”
IFP chairperson Blessed Gwala echoed those sentiments‚ saying his party would be in protest mode for the Nquthu by-election. He said the ANC had used its councillors and government position to prevent the IFP from taking over Nquthu municipality.
“We are going into these elections with a deep concern that the ANC is using all its powers to cripple the IFP using the laws of the country. It is clear that they will be using state resources towards the May 24 by-elections.
“But we are hopeful that voters would do justice and return the IFP to power with an even bigger majority‚” he said.
The National Freedom Party (NFP)‚ which was barred from participating in the August 3 2016 local government elections after its officials had failed to pay a deposit to the IEC‚ said it was also ready to contest all wards in the council.
NFP spokesperson Sabelo Sigudu said the party would send its top leaders — including its president Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi — to campaign in the area.
“The NFP has sorted out all its internal problems and we will go into these by-elections with a clear focus. We want to regain lost ground‚ hence we are contesting in all wards‚” he said.
Lucky Moloi‚ the ANC’s regional secretary‚ said the ANC was gearing up for a clean sweep in Nquthu. He denied his party would use state resources to win votes.
“We are going to these by-elections to win. In our campaigns we will be promoting ANC programmes. We hope that these elections will be held in a peaceful‚ free and fair atmosphere. We hope that these elections will not be marred by violence‚” Moloi said.
The people of Nquthu said they were starting to feel the election fever. Ntombizonke Mbatha‚ a street trader‚ said: “We have started seeing vehicles branded with party logos making rounds. We just hope this thing [by-elections] will soon be over and we can be able to get service delivery.
“These parties only come when they want our votes and after that they disappear.”