ANC and Inkatha left to clear up IEC mess: Demoralised Commission unable to announce election results

Durban - The rising tide of allegations of ballot fraud in last week's general elections in the troubled South African province of KwaZulu/Natal and repeated delays in the release of the results have sunk morale at the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters in Durban, writes Karl Maier.

On Wednesday, the IEC announced it could find no evidence to back up charges levelled by the ANC that Inkatha had carried out widescale rigging in the former homeland of KwaZulu. But simultaneously IEC monitors were leaking confidential internal documents which argued the opposite and made it clear that in northern Natal, the region mainly controlled by Inkatha, the elections were neither free nor fair.

IEC officials said that the votes had been counted and all that was left was the 'reconciliation' of ballots and ballot boxes to determine which were false. But when pressed on the point that in fact without a voters' register, with people voting anywhere they liked and with no accurate census figures, 'reconciliation' could prove nothing, the official agreed.

Despite repeated assurances given to the media that the results would be announced yesterday evening, one official conceded there was no way they would be ready today.

So untenable has the IEC's position become that it will be up to the ANC and Inkatha to find a way out of the confusion in KwaZulu/Natal. 'My feeling is that given the ANC's landslide majority, they should just give KwaZulu-Natal to Inkatha,' said one official. 'Otherwise it could be a catastrophe.'