March 2, 2004

Parties adopt code to ensure peaceful poll

Political parties signed an electoral code of conduct in Pretoria, reinforcing a culture of tolerance among parties contesting the April 14 elections. The code is legally binding on all participating parties, their candidates and supporters. It holds them responsible for the behaviour of their candidates and supporters. It is hoped the code will help eradicate no-go areas in volatile areas, such as KwaZulu-Natal, and allow free political activity by contesting parties. It prohibits the use of inflammatory speeches by parties against their opponents and also empowers the Independent Electoral Commission to (IEC) disqualify or fine parties whose leaders and elected representatives are found guilty of provoking supporters or members of the public to acts of violence.

Meanwhile, the ANC's election machinery has also shifted into top gear with President Mbeki embarking on a national road show to canvass for the party. Opposition parties have spent the past four weeks engaged in vigorous campaigns, but the ruling party has kept a low profile. ANC presidency spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said the party's electioneering had for the past month been focused on visits to voters' homes. "For us, the fanfare does not help much. What is important is for our members to go out and explain our policies to people on the ground. They need to explain what the 'people's contract' is all about." Mbeki's absence from electioneering during the past month created a gap for opposition leaders to have their say, but meant there was not much debate. (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg / Sunday Times, Johannesburg)


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