South Africa's opposition Congress of
the People (COPE) is demanding protection from the Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC) ahead of next month's general election after claiming its
partisans are being intimidated, saying next month's elections could be marred. COPE
said it was seeking assurance from the Independent Electoral Commission that
the upcoming April 22 local and parliamentary elections would be transparent,
free and fair. But the ruling African National Congress (ANC) dismissed the
opposition claims saying COPE is psychologically preparing itself for a poor showing
in the general election. Somadoda Fikeni is a political analyst. He tells
reporter Peter Clottey that this year's election would be fiercely contested by
this is one of the most intensely contested elections since 1994 when South Africa
made its transition to democracy and therefore we have seen a heightened level
of intimidation sometimes this becoming violent. And in the region of Kwazulu
Natal we have even seen some political assassinations. Of course this is not
rising to the levels of pre-1994, but it is still a reason for concern," Fikeni said.
He said tensions between the
ruling ANC and the opposition COPE have sharply risen ahead of the election.
"In the case of the COPE and
the ANC, you will remember that COPE is a breakaway group of the ANC. So, there
is such an intense sense of betrayal and counter betrayal hence COPE in areas
which are predominantly ANC hasn't done well in terms of campaigning," he said.
Fikeni said COPE's demand
for the electoral commission's assurance is perhaps misplaced.
"This matter is mainly a
security matter, but while it is quite clear that a certain party is
instigating this, all parties do sign a code of conduct as a pledge to say that
they wouldn't do certain things. So the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
could punish them by imposing a penalty in the form of payment. That in itself
is one of the limited options that the Independent Electoral Commission has,
but beyond that it's a matter for the police and the security forces, securing the
meetings," said Fikeni.
He said the opposition COPE
could significantly challenge the ruling ANC provided COPE makes the necessary
effort to achieve that aim.
"If they put their
infrastructure and their message across as well as the leadership team, surely
in the local government elections that are coming in 2011 they will do well,"
Fikeni said it is unlikely
that COPE party will attain the position of main opposition party in the April
22 general election.
"In this election, they will
struggle to win that spot of being the main opposition party because the
well-organized, well-financed, well-resourced Democratic Alliance, which is the
opposition party currently has put up a spirited fight. A well-organized
campaign for this particular election and besides it has a white constituency,
which still has no other option or home and therefore put in their faith in the
Democratic Alliance," Fikeni pointed out.