An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND
An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND

Opposition parties have criticised the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and the ruling ANC, saying they are using "dirty tactics" and state-sponsored "vote buying campaign" ahead of the closely contested Nquthu local municipality by-elections.

On Wednesday — 14 days before the by-elections where 33 seats are contested by 325 candidates and 14 political parties — KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu led a delegation of MECs to host various activities — under the banner of Sukuma Sakhe Programme (loosely translated to mean Play a Part in Your Own Development) — in all 17 Nquthu local municipality wards.

The opposition also say the ANC provincial government must be investigated by the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) and other Chapter 9 institutions for using things like food parcels and supplying government sponsored Jojo tanks to placate drought-affected communities of Nquthu. Both the ANC and the provincial government have rejected these claims as nonsense.

However, a DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal, who was campaigning in Nquthu on Wednesday, said while it was true that the people of Nquthu needed service delivery before and after the upcoming by-elections, there was a clear manipulation of state resources to bolster the ANC’s fortunes in the area.

"As I was campaigning today [Wednesday] I noticed that there is no ward in Nquthu which does not have a government programme. Other voters are given food parcels. Does this mean these poor people are only hungry — and others only need government services — when there is going to be elections.

"But people are not stupid. They know that the ANC and ANC-ruled provincial government officials are here to seek their votes and after that they will disappear," he said.

The IFP went even further. Blessed Gwala, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) chairperson and its leader in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, said the party would pursue this matter by submitting written questions about Sukuma Sakhe programmes in Nquthu to Mchunu after provincial MECs had bombarded Nquthu after the be-elections date was declared.

"We are convinced that this is a blatant abuse of state resources yet again by the ANC and it reinforces our previous claims that the MEC of Cogta [co-operative governance and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube] is hellbent on ensuring that the ANC gains control of the Nquthu municipality," Gwala said.

"Now it is high time to call for a thorough investigation into these so-called imbizos because now it is clear that the ANC has turned the Operation Sukuma Sakhe into its machine to garner votes, not to deliver services to the people," Gwala said.

He added that members from the provincial legislature from opposition parties represented in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature were excluded from these government events.

The ANC said it was conducting its own clean electioneering programme in Nquthu and was not using government resources. The party said the opposition expected a drubbing in the polls and were looking for scapegoats.

ANC provincial spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli said: "We are humbled by the warm and optimistic reception from ordinary people who have shown a keen interest towards the ANC. More than ever before, we are more than convinced that the ANC will emerge as a decisive winner on the 24th".

Mchunu rejected the notion that he was in Nquthu to bolster the ANC. He said his government was excited about its reception in Nquthu and the ideas that were suggested by the people of the region.

"We are the public representatives elected through a democratic process and we serve at the will of the people. We must work together to build a stronger KwaZulu-Natal, thereby eradicating unemployment, poverty and inequality.

"Importantly, the people of Nquthu deserve solid service delivery, which will eventually improve the quality of their lives," Mchunu said.

TMG Digital

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