KwaZulu vote declared 'fair' by commission

AFRICAN National Congress supporters were stunned and confused by the Independent Electoral Commission's decision yesterday to declare last week's election in KwaZulu/

Natal province free and fair, despite charges by IEC monitors of widespread rigging by the Inkatha Freedom Party.

'Most of our supporters are worried and confused,' said Zipho Mkhize, an ANC spokesman in the northern Natal city of Empangeni. 'They are scared because they know what the attitude of the KwaZulu (homeland) government was towards anyone who was seen as ANC.'

Several ANC officials in the region said they believed their leadership had accepted the disputed results, which gave Inkatha control of the provincial assembly by a 50.3 per cent to 32.2 per cent margin over the ANC, in the interests of maintaining peace. In the past 10 years, a desultory civil war between Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha and the ANC has claimed 10,000 lives. The outgoing president, F W de Klerk, imposed a state of emergency in the region on 31 March in an attempt to halt the slaughter.

'In terms of violence, allowing Inkatha to control Natal might be better,' said Sam Nxumalo, an ANC official in Eshowe. 'It is easier to control the ANC followers, especially since we have won nationally. If the situation was reversed and the ANC won the province, there would have been chaos.'

The premier-elect for KwaZulu/Natal, Inkatha's Frank Mdlalose, suggested on Thursday that a new election should be held soon because of allegations of fraud and the IEC's mismanagement of the polls.

Chief Buthelezi said he accepted the poll results 'in the interests of reconciliation as sufficiently fair and free to enable us to move forward' and urged the ANC-led government to work with Inkatha to resolve 'the many difficulties that lie ahead'.

An IEC official in Durban said he believed the decision to ratify the poll results was a compromise between the ANC and Inkatha to let the charges of vote rigging by both sides cancel each other out. He said both sides committed fraud, but that the ANC's 'propaganda wing is much more effective at getting the information out'.

Internal IEC documents, however, painted a different picture - one in which Inkatha was able to stuff ballot boxes, mount flying voting stations using minibuses and have its officials appointed as presiding officers who used their positions at voting stations to encourage, and sometimes force, voters to cast their ballots for the IFP.

Most of the voting stations in KwaZulu were staffed by Inkatha officials or employees of the former homeland government. Christa Claussen- Williams, the district electoral officer for Mahlabatini, which included the former homeland capital, Ulundi, was a senior public relations official of the KwaZulu government.

In Eshowe, the local pro- Inkatha chief, B I Zulu, his brother, IFP member Maurice Mackenzie, and KwaZulu government deputy minister Prince Gideon Zulu were alleged to have run a convoy of roving voter stations using minibuses with no monitors from the IEC, the ANC or any other political party.

A confidential IEC report argued that voting north of the Tugela river in the Inkatha stronghold should be declared null and void due to 'factual evidence' of rampant fraud. In some areas voter turnout was 215 per cent, and in Mahlabatini the number of ballots was 385 per cent of the expected vote.

'The thing we must all focus on now is reconciliation, rather than worrying about the past,' said Mr Mkhize in Empangeni.

However some analysts believe the IEC's decision will worsen the violence. 'The violence will certainly flare, and if it does it will be the responsibility of those who took this decision which is based on fraud on a huge scale,' said Mary de Haas of the University of Natal, who has been monitoring the conflict.

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