October 25, 2002

Inkatha, ANC Tensions Rise in KwaZulu/Natal

The floor-crossing exercise has inflamed sectarian tensions in KwaZulu-Natal, with the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) accusing each other of stoking violence. In recent weeks a councillor from each party has been murdered, there have been claims of attacks and abductions, and an ANC councillor has gone into hiding after saying he received death threats. Party leaders on both sides said tensions were exacerbated by the uncertainty in the ruling coalition in KwaZulu-Natal. For most of the year its members have been locked in a tussle for control.

The IFP has furiously rejected the floor-crossing law, which threatens its majority in the legislature. Five legislature members, two from the IFP, signalled their intention to cross to the ANC giving that party a majority. However, the court barred provincial defections on technical grounds, and the five would-be floor-crossers were expelled by their parties when the floor-crossing period ended this week.

The saga is not yet over. The national government announced it would amend the Constitution to allow provincial defections and enable defectors who lost their seats to regain them. The law could be passed at a special parliamentary sitting by year end. Five IFP councillors have also defected to the ANC in the province. The IFP is still finalising its defection tally, but confirmed that one ANC councillor had crossed to it. In addition, IFP national organiser Albert Mncwango pointed out that James Mthembu, an ANC member of the Tongaat council, was shot dead earlier this month, while IFP councillor Bhekinkosi Mhlongo, from Umlazi, was shot dead a week later.

Confirming heightened tensions between the parties, ANC safety and security spokesperson, Bheki Cele, said the ANC strongly suspected the killings were political. Mncwango said the ANC "had only itself to blame, as it coined the defection legislation". He also claimed that the ANC had launched a campaign this year to "destroy the coalition arrangement" between the parties. (MAIL&GUARDIAN)

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