RECEPTION FOR INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS OF THE KWAZULU-NATAL 2014 ELECTIONS 5 MAY 2014
Address by Dr Douglas Dziva, CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council INTRODUCTION:
On behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and the KwaZulu-Natal Democracy Education Forum, I would like to add my words of welcome to those expressed by the by the KZNCC Chairperson , Bishop Michael Vorster.
WELCOME TO THE 40 INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS:
We are indeed delighted to receive you, a team of 40 international observers from SADC countries to observe the KZN elections on 5, 6 and 7 May. We know that you are a highly skilled group of individuals with much experience in electoral issues and an excellent knowledge of the southern African region. It is appropriate that your group consists of religious leaders, human rights lawyers, and representatives of NGOs dealing with issues of good governance.
Indeed it is a high profile group whose assessment of our elections will enjoy much credibility.
Senior Advocate Boma Azobia, and all members of the international team, you will forgive us for having high expectations of your group.
- We believe that your presence and visibility will be contribute to peaceful, free and fair elections in this Province;
- Your observation of the elections and the statements you will release during and especially after the elections will give the world an objective view of the entire election process;
- The fact that you come from diverse countries and diverse contexts will help to create new networks of people concerned about good governance which will be helpful to South Africa in the future and, we hope, your own countries, and the region.
- We would be grateful if you would be part of a SADC regional database of good governance and human rights activists.
- We are not looking for a rubber stamping of preconceived conclusions, but we urge you to be as open and honest with us as possible about what you see and hear over these next few days that you will be here. What we are looking for is a thorough
assessment of this election processes and election management so that we can learn lessons for the future.
SPECIAL TASK OF THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS:
I’m sure that His Worship the Mayor of the eThekwini Municipality would like you to see as much as possible of the beautiful city of Durban while you are here, but that is not why we invited you!
As you will know, KwaZulu-Natal is infamous for having the worst history of political violence in the whole of South Africa. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 people died as a result of political conflict from the mid 80’s to the present, and that over a quarter of a million people were displaced from their homes. This violence worsened in the last three months before our first democratic elections in 1994, but gradually subsided over the 20 years since then, and has come down drastically since 2012.
In the 1980s and 90s there was terrible political violence, war lords, intimidation,
political killings, and many no-go areas. This has gradually given way to more freedom of choice, movement, speech and association, and much more mutual tolerance among political parties. Indeed people speak about a growth of political maturity in KwaZulu- Natal.
Nevertheless these positive developments are fragile and there continue to be instances of political intimidation, harassment and intolerance. We have identified 10 areas in in the province which we consider as potential high risk areas, and it is to some of these stations that you will be deployed. We believe that your presence will be crucial to helping these potential flash points remain peaceful, and ensuring that their elections will proceed without incident. The police have been informed about your deployment to these stations, and we are requesting them to ensure your safety.
YOUR HOSTS, THE KZNCC AND KZNDEF:
Let me say something about your hosts, the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) and the KwaZulu-Natal Democracy Education Forum (KZNDEF).
Established in 1995, KZNCC is a provincial council of churches affiliated to the South African Council of Churches. Its mission is to coordinate, support provincial networks and partnerships of the church and civil society on social justice, governance, reconciliation, health, and the environment issues.
The KZNDEF is a forum of 13 NGOs (including the KZNCC whose turn is hosting the 2014 observer mission) working with the IEC and religious leaders on peacebuilding, the promotion of good governance and democracy deepening in this province of KwaZulu- Natal.
OUR PREPARATIONS FOR THESE ELECTIONS:
In preparing for these elections, despite a limited budget, these two bodies – the KZNCC
and the KZNDEF – have been involved in:
- Mobilizing communities to encourage citizens to get bar-coded identity documents;
- Urging the registered voters to inspect the voters’ roll to ensure its correctness;
- Urging all citizens who qualify, to register to vote.
- Ensuring that the people of KwaZulu-Natal understand democratic and electoral principles before they go to the polls to cast their votes.
And as the elections have come closer, in addition to arranging for the participation of
yourselves as international observers:
- We have organised peace building workshops in identified hot spots;
- We have recruited 550 domestic observers who will be deployed and stationed at selected voting stations;
- We have 10 religious and community leaders ready for deployment as mediators to deal with any conflicts that may arise;
- We have 22 clearly marked cars that will be used by roving observers.
- All those involved in these various forms of electoral support have been trained in the SA electoral laws, the Electoral Code of Conduct, and how to observe and report on elections.
We hope that these steps which we have taken, and your presence with us, will enable us both to articulate whether the elections were peaceful, free, fair and credible in the eyes of the local people and the international community.
Once again, we thank you for coming to our assistance as good neighbours of South Africa, and we hope that you will find your stay with us a very worthwhile experience.