Crisis threatens to disrupt poll in South Africa

PRAKASH NAIDOO

Tensions in South Africa's government of national unity, and in the violence-prone province of KwaZulu-Natal, overshadowed a vote yesterday by parliament to hold historic local elections next month.

Polls to replace the last remnants of apartheid in South Africa's elected institutions have been bedevilled for months by uncertainty over voter registration and haggling over local authority boundaries. Although the National Assembly voted yesterday to go ahead on 1 November, KwaZulu-Natal will sit out the process for at least another five months.

The parliamentary debate, however, caused the worst infighting between the African National Congress and its governing partner, the National Party, since the national election 17 months ago. Mac Maharaj, the ANC Minister of Transport, called for the Deputy President and leader of the National Party, F W de Klerk, to be sacked as chairman of the cabinet committee on security and intelligence, accusing him of threatening a coup during a speech at the weekend.

Yesterday President Nelson Mandela's office moved to dispel rumours, believed to have started in financial markets in London, that Mr de Klerk had resigned, although the ANC said it supported Mr Maharaj's call for his dismissal. Mr de Klerk said he had been misquoted.

Tension between the two parties has been aggravated by ANC claims that the NP was attempting to manipulate the electoral boundaries in the Western Cape, the only province controlled by the party, to improve its chances next month. Polls will go ahead except in the greater Cape Town metropolitan area, the centre of the dispute.

Voting will also be delayed in KwaZulu-Natal, the power base of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, which has seen the worst wrangling over boundaries.

Peter Miller, Inkatha's provincial housing minister, said yesterday that it would be impossible to go ahead with elections before 27 March next year, the deadline set in the new legislation. If KwaZulu-Natal fails to meet the deadline, the central government is empowered to appoint administrators to run the province.

Fighting between the Zulu nationalists of Inkatha and ANC supporters has killed scores of people in the province in recent months. This, coupled with bitter disputes over boundaries, has undermined any hope of a trouble- free election.

Inkatha, which governs KwaZulu-Natal with a small majority, has argued for a high degree of autonomy from the central government, and Chief Buthelezi is accused of seeking the secession of the province. The party is refusing to include any tribal areas within the electoral boundaries of the cities, and the issue will now be referred to a special electoral court, probably by early next month, for a final decision.

In the rest of the country there is increasing concern that voters' rolls may not be up to date. Despite a massive voter-education drive in the past six months, a survey this week revealed that many people still believe they can simply turn up at the polls and vote, as they did last year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected