Helen Zille accused President Jacob Zuma of creating a climate for violence against her opposition DA [Democratic Alliance] by invoking the wrath of the ancestors against defectors from his ruling ANC.
She said Zuma had contributed to a context in which young ANC members disrupted a DA meeting on Monday in Gugulethu, where the parties go head-to-head in a by-election today, and earlier smashed corrugated iron enclosures erected by the DA-controlled city around outdoor toilets in nearby Makhaza.
“This kind of intimidation happens in a context and that kind of context was created by President Zuma this week when he said that if people did not vote for the ANC, the ancestors would know and would haunt them and make them sick,” Zille said.
She said his remarks to the ANC’s national executive committee last week had also contributed to the climate in which violence could thrive. Saying no one was “above the ANC”, Zuma said: “We must stop allowing the opposition space to spread negativity about our country.”
In a separate development, the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape threatened to vandalise the centre of Cape Town in a protest against what they said was skewed service delivery by the DA.
Sapa quoted the league’s Dullah Omar regional secretary, Loyiso Nkohle, as saying: “We are going to destroy everything and make the city ungovernable. We are calling on all youth to do this [vandalise the city], especially those living in informal settlements.”
Zille said the youth league’s behaviour was a direct result of Zuma’s leadership.
Quoting a report in Beeld newspaper, she said Zuma had told an audience that their ancestors would know who they voted for.
Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, also condemned Zuma’s use of traditional beliefs to bolster his party. “It is totally unacceptable that the president could use intimidating tactics to try to regain the support that the ANC is losing as a result of many unfulfilled promises,” he said.
Zuma’s spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, told The Times that he had used a metaphor in an address to an ANC crowd in Mpumalanga at the weekend and had not implied that people would get physically sick.
He said Zuma’s comments did not violate the spirit of the constitutional assurance of a secret ballot and promised the ANC leader would make time to discuss Zille’s concerns with her.
“He was saying that if you don’t do what the ancestors–the ANC ancestors–instruct, then they will turn their backs on you and things will not go well, politically speaking,” he said.
Kodwa said Zuma had made the comments in the context of a speech about the history and role of the ANC and its former leaders, who are now dead.
“Nobody in history who has ever broken away from the ANC has ever survived outside the ANC,” Kodwa said, explaining later that he was referring to political survival.
Zuma has previously been criticised for claiming a divine right for the ANC to rule “until Jesus comes”.
He referred to the furore that followed in a recent address to Parliament, saying it was a reality that his party would rule indefinitely. He has also come under fire for ill-judged comments about HIV/Aids and the rights of women and gay men.
Zille said the DA would never resort to violence or illegal activities in the face of ANC intimidation, but DA MP Masizole Mnqasela, who was present at the disrupted meeting on Monday, warned that it was becoming harder to control angry DA members faced with attack.
Zille said ANC members tried to disrupt the Gugulethu meeting while she spoke. Police fired rubber bullets after they were called in to restore order.
DA campaigner Lungiswa Gaza James, who lives in Gugulethu, alleged that a local ANC councillor had participated in the attack and that ousted ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatcha had watched from a car parked nearby.
Zille praised police for stepping in to protect her supporters, but said there had been further violence against DA members after she left for another meeting.
Earlier, people claiming to be members of ANCYL tore down corrugated iron enclosures built by the city council around toilets left unenclosed in terms of an agreement with the Makhaza community.
Witnesses said youth league ringleaders told residents begging to be allowed to keep the structures that “the majority” had decided that only concrete structures would do.
The toilets were built in the open after most residents agreed to enclose the facilities themselves in return for having one toilet per household, rather than the one fully enclosed toilet for every five houses that had been budgeted for.
Zille said the ANC did not want the DA to be seen to be delivering to deprived areas neglected during years of ANC rule.
She said the attacks confirmed a pattern of intimidation linked specially to by-elections in which the ANC faced defeat.
Zille listed nine incidents since August in which DA members had been attacked, stoned, shot at or had their DA posters burned. They included:
* Two DA members were attacked with pick axes and had their houses burned in Daveyton on the East Rand in October;
* Party activist Derrick Love was shot in the neck while hanging posters in Atlantis, outside Cape Town, in December; and
* Also in December, tyres and DA banners were burned and party member Solly Msimanga was injured when ANC members tried to disrupt a meeting in Soshanguve, near Pretoria.
She said it was the sort of intolerance which, if left unchecked by ANC leaders, could drive South Africa towards the political anarchy that has ruined Zimbabwe.