ANC is braced for poll violence

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The Independent Online
DESPITE A remarkably peaceful run-up to South Africa's second multi-race elections, thousands of people will be risking their lives when they vote next Wednesday.

In a township near Johannesburg, local African National Congress leaders are sleeping in a police station, fearing attacks by supporters of the United Democratic Movement. In Cape Town yesterday, the UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa, was heckled and jeered by ANC supporters.

There are also instances of intimidation in KwaZulu Natal where the Independent Electoral Commission has threatened to cancel voting in Nongoma - home of the Zulu king - unless supporters of the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party make peace.

Chief Elliot Shangase, a prominent local leader of the IFP, was shot and killed in an ambush in the small KwaZulu-Natal town of Thafmasi on Wednesday evening. Two people with him were wounded.

In Nongoma last week, a petrol bomb was thrown at the home of a Zulu royal who supports the ANC. In other rural strongholds of the IFP, members of the ANC are allegedly sleeping in the bush because they fear that their homes will be burnt down.

However, although the government , fearing the worst, has sent 20,000 security forces to KwaZulu Natal, the strife is minimal compared with the 1994 elections, during which 10 people died each day in clashes in KwaZulu Natal, thousands were too afraid to vote and others obeyed instructions from warlords.

In this election, which covers both national and provincial legislatures using a system of proportional representation, rivalry, gerrymandering and outbreaks of violence have been at their worst between the ANC and UDM.

In Greenfields township, southeast of Johannesburg, Portia Mguli, leader of the local ANC branch, said she and 700 other supporters were chased from their homes at gunpoint by UDM militants.

"After we left, they burnt and vandalised our homes," she said.

Yesterday, Mr Holomisa only just made it to the podium at the University of the Western Cape. Students wearing ANC T-shirts reportedly shouted and whistled as he spoke and a UDM sound engineer deafened them by turning up the volume.

Earlier in the week, Mr Holomisa abandoned an attempt to address students at the hallowed Eastern Cape university of Fort Hare after a confrontation with supporters of the ANC.

The ANC is expected to win up to two-thirds of the national vote next Wednesday but faces challenges in several provinces - from the UDM in the northern part of the Eastern Cape, the New National Party in the Western Cape and the IFP in KwaZulu Natal.