This week the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (Case) released their report, Just singing and dancing? Intimidation and the manipulation of voters and the electoral process in the build-up to the 2014 elections. The report was researched and written by David Bruce, who writes about the report research below:

“The research is based on 24 in-depth interviews with representatives of nine political parties including Agang, the ANC, COPE, DA, EFF, IFP, NFP, UDM and WASP. A representative of the IEC was also interviewed. The ANC is included on the basis that, even though it is the ruling party nationally, and the dominant party in most poorer communities, it is nevertheless also an opposition party in some poorer communities in South Africa. The parties that were selected included the six major parties in South Africa as measured by the total number of votes gained in the 2011 local government elections. In addition representatives of three newly established parties, Agang, the EFF, and WASP, were interviewed. Information from press reports has also been used as a supplementary source of information.”

Here is an excerpt titled: Where and when is intimidation taking place


While intimidation is not taking place in all parts of poorer South Africa, it is widespread and occurs in a wide number of localities in many of the provinces. In addition, the places where one party faces intimidation are not necessarily the same locales where other parties face coercion. For instance during the civil war of the late 1980s and early 1990s in KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC and groups aligned to it tended to exercise power in many of the black urban townships, while rural areas tended to be dominated by the IFP or its predecessor, Inkatha. In the urban areas the IFP/Inkatha was also often the dominant political force in hostel areas, not only in KwaZulu-Natal but also in what was then the Witwatersrand. These patterns continue to manifest themselves in the contemporary geography of intimidation.

ANC interviewees identified parts of Zululand and some of the Durban hostel areas as still presenting a problem for the ANC, but one of the IFP interviewees indicated that, though there were only ‘pockets’ where the IFP faced intimidation, these tended to be situated in urban township areas, citing as examples Clermont, in greater Durban, and Imbali in Pietermaritzburg. ‘In rural areas,’ he said, ‘we have never had a problem’.

Though intimidation continues to be a problem there have been profound shifts in the geography of political intimidation in South Africa since 1994. For instance, while the opening up of rural KwaZulu-Natal to the ANC has partly been an incremental process, it would appear that the ascension of Jacob Zuma to the position of President, both of the ANC (in December 2007) and of South Africa (in May 2009), dramatically shifted dynamics in parts of KwaZulu-Natal that had continued to be hostile to ANC presence.

Before 2009 you won’t wear an ANC T-shirt at KwaNongoma because you will either be killed or be shot at. Now you can, things have changed dramatically. … Things are calmer now. You have a few pockets—like recently one of our members at Ulundi … on the same day we were welcoming three councillors from Nongoma Municipality who were members of the IFP. Those ward councillors resigned from the IFP—to come and join the ANC. On the same day one of our members who was also formerly an IFP councillor at Ulundi was shot and killed at his house with almost eight bullets. When that happens people would obviously get afraid and feel we can’t be open and come out and say we are ANC members. We do have a few of those things but most of the intimidation it will not be reported in the media. But generally I would say things are no longer as they were before. You have the ANC almost able to come back in all areas of Zululand. Obviously you have areas where people are not receptive to the ANC coming to those areas, but it does not result in violence in terms of the work that we have been doing. Let me give you one example—we have 89 wards in this district and … there is not one ward where you do not have an ANC member who has joined an ANC branch. This is for us an indication as it is something that has not happened before. Over time people are starting to accept that other parties can also be part of those communities. (ANC, KZN 2)

However, as indicated, the Ulundi area remains an area where the ANC still feels that it does not have complete freedom. Within the five municipalities for instance at eDumbe, Vryheid and Pongola, its no longer. People are able to freely express themselves about which political party they belong to. But you still have those elements in the area of Ulundi where [IFP] President Buthelezi comes from. There are people who are now members of the ANC but intimidation is still there. (ANC, KZN 2)

In March 2014 the National Freedom Party (NFP) requested the IEC to investigate incidents of intimidation against its members in the Ulundi area. The NFP indicated that its supporters in the area were being intimidated and T-shirts bearing the face of NFP leader, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, had been burned. While ANC interviewees reported that they continued to face a problem of intimidation in a limited number of rural areas in KwaZulu- Natal, interviewees from the DA argued that in many rural areas they suffered from a serious problem of coercion at the hands of the ANC, though their experience of intimidation also extended to some urban areas. The UDM interviewee also indicated that intimidation was high in rural areas. On the other hand, the NFP interviewee in Gauteng indicated that it was above all in hostels and informal settlements that ‘intimidation is very high’:

But the area of poorer people in hostels and informal settlements, believe me there is no freedom, no freedom. I talk from experience, there is no freedom. (NFP, Gauteng)

Speaking ten days after the launch of the EFF on 13 October 2013, the single EFF interviewee indicated that in the build-up to the launch the EFF had experienced intimidation ‘In all our meetings … everywhere we’ve been’.

Some DA interviewees emphasised that there were many poorer communities, both in rural and urban areas, where they did not face intimidation. There appeared to be a number of factors which influenced whether or not the ANC in an area would engage in intimidation, one of these being the nature of local leadership. However DA interviewees, notably from Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, argued that while there were local variations, the key factor was whether or not the DA in a specific locality had started to become a serious contender for popular support.

Political activity has been completely free and fair in this country. Amazingly so. But there’s a context to that. If you have a government that is so hegemonic, and so strong, that if they think they are going to shed 15–20% to the combined opposition, they can afford to be magnanimous, and say, `Carry on, go do your thing. We’re still going to get our 70 or 80%.’ So 20% [is a] small price to pay. It really endorses our democracy. It shows our magnanimity. It’s fine, go ahead. But when there’s a real chance of losing power, the stakes are much higher. We’ve started to see that in areas where we threaten to win, that there’s much less tolerance. And there have been incidents of assault, threats on people’s lives. … So it’s starting to happen. (DA, Eastern Cape)

Where the ANC’s dominance in terms of electoral support is extremely high, intimidation is less, okay. Kind of logical, where they pulling 90–95% of the vote they are less likely to intimidate because they feel very comfortable about their position and they gonna get large amounts of votes, they don’t mind the presence of an opposition to get that 5% or 10% of the votes which they can get because it adds legitimacy to the democratic process and it’s all glorious and nice and they recognise the fact that the opposition must be there and such like. But the moment you move into an area, no matter where it is, rural or urban, where the contest becomes closer and where the possibility of an ANC defeat becomes a greater possibility and a reality, intimidation escalates. So there are towns where we are stronger than other towns and in the places where the DA is stronger intimidation is higher. And I think that that is probably the key factor. … I think it’s very rarely that you are going to see the DA grow from a party of say being 10% going up to 30%, 40%, winning the ward, with no incident of intimidation, I don’t think so. … I cannot think of a single example where you have seen a trajectory of DA growth consistently over a period of time, to the point where we’ve won a ward or won a municipality, where there have not been elements of intimidation either directly or indirectly. (DA, Mpumalanga)

Related to the stronger position in which the DA now finds itself, incidents of intimidation have become a frequent occurrence:

All I can tell you is we encounter these on a weekly basis. From some intimidation, or a threatening demeanour at a house meeting in a ward in a municipality, where there’s some DA people doing a house meeting, maybe showing a video or something. ANC people in the community will come and they will shout and scream and toyi-toyi outside the house, threaten the house owner that they’ll come and burn the house down when we’ve left. That happens on a weekly basis. (DA, Eastern Cape).

An NFP interviewee also agreed that intimidation was not targeted at opposition parties in general but would focus on opponents who were perceived to pose a real challenge to the dominant party:

They target the party getting strong, they don’t even bother with the weaker ones. They target the one attracting more members in that particular area which according to them is their territory. (NFP, Gauteng)

One interviewee argued that another dynamic could heighten the chances of intimidation and that this occurs when a party faces a challenge from a breakaway party. This suggests that the perception of betrayal by members of the original party might heighten emotions concerning the rivalry between the two parties:

Mostly if a person who is leading Party B was a member of Party A before, then obviously the members of Party A are not happy with him and they attack. I can mention maybe the EFF. I don’t think the EFF has to do with other parties except those members of the party where the leader of the EFF was a member before. The same thing applies to us as NFP. Most of our enemies or attackers or intimidators are the people who our leader was a member of them before. (NFP, Gauteng).


 Main Pic: Julius Malema’s supporters burn an ANC flag outside his disciplinary hearing: By Oupa Nkosi

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