Violence, corruption and intimidation ahead of 7 May elections

In a media briefing on Tuesday 6 May, Lizette Lancaster and Judith February spoke about corruption, violence and intimidation ahead of SA elections.

Following on from the election briefing on 5 May 2014, ISS researchers Lizette Lancaster and Judith February spoke about corruption, violence and intimidation ahead of the SA election on 7 May in a media briefing this morning. The briefing was part of the ISS African Election Watch programme, which analyses how elections affect human security.

To listen to the ISS election briefings dial +27 11 305 2030 with access codes below:

  • A guide to the contested provinces with Jonathan Faull – 30829 (Recording expires 9 May 2014) 
  • Analysis of corruption, public violence and intimidation ahead of the election with Lizette Lancaster and Judith February – 30830 (Recording expires 10 May 2014)

Violence and intimidation – Lizette Lancaster

  • ‘The 7 May election is one of the most contested elections of the past 20 years, with the ANC expected to lose support.’
  • ‘Political violence and intimidation have dropped significantly since 1994 when thousands of people were killed ahead of the country’s first democratic elections. An estimated 120 political killings have taken place since 2003, mostly in KwaZulu-Natal, with a less than 10% conviction rate.’
  • ‘Violence did not play a very significant role in the 2009 election, though there have been worrying trends since the 2011 local government elections, which saw seven community protests on election day.’
  • ‘The ISS has been tracking all forms of public violence including election-related violence since January 2013. Maps of all incidents can be viewed online at’
  • ‘Since the ISS started monitoring public violence in January 2013, a total of 78 election-related incidents and protests were recorded, of which two thirds (53) escalated into violence.’
  • ‘Most of these incidents, 61 in total, have occurred over the past six months.’
  • ‘Half of the incidents recorded by the ISS took place in metropolitan areas, 27% in rural areas and 24% in non-metro urban areas.’
  • ‘More than half of the perpetrators of violence (55%) are unknown. Where the political affiliation is known, the main perpetrators are supporters of the ANC (54%) followed by those of the EFF (25%).’
  • ‘Violence has shifted away from KwaZulu-Natal towards the more hotly-contested provinces such as Gauteng. The risk of violence increases where the dominance of political parties at a local level is challenged by newcomers.’
  • ‘Gauteng (35%) and Western Cape (22%) experienced the most election-related incidents followed by KwaZulu-Natal (14%), the Eastern Cape (13%) and Northwest Province (12%).’
  • ‘It is likely there will be an increase in election-related violence ahead of the 2016 local government elections, where issues directly affect people’s lives and the interests of ward councillors come under threat from emerging challengers.’
  • ‘During the recent election campaign, many incidents saw communities acting against their own councillors, and political parties turning local service delivery grievances into a national election issue.’
  • ‘For the first time, in this election violence has been directed at the Independent Electoral Commission, with polling stations being burnt.’
  • ‘Recent research by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry found that election intimidation is more widespread than generally recognised. This includes:
    • Economic coercion - misinformation and threats such as suggesting the denial of pensions, grants, jobs, contracts, services and development opportunities if certain political parties are not voted for.
    • Disruption, and the intimidation of participants of political party meetings and other events by rival political parties
    • Fatal violence and intimidation directed against individuals, notably in the form of political killings or assassinations
    • Attempts to disrupt the registration and electoral process’

Corruption - Judith February

  • ‘In the wake of the Nkandla scandal, opposition political parties have worked hard to make corruption an election issue and to keep excessive and wasteful government expenditure in the minds of voters.’
  • ‘The extent to which voters are significantly angered by corruption to shift their voting patterns is not yet known.’
  • ‘Voters will have to decide which parties best represent their interests with regard to corruption. The vote on 7 May will in many ways be a test of South Africans’ attitudes towards current levels of corruption and a commitment to transparent and accountable governance.’
  • ‘Despite a strong anti-corruption framework, South Africa is increasingly struggling to implement legislation on corruption. This is due to a failure to implement legislation, and a lack of capacity and political will to tackle powerful and politically connected individuals involved in corruption.’
  • ‘The 2013 Afrobarometer survey on public perceptions found that 66% of South Africans believe government is failing to uphold its duty to ensure a society free of corrupt and unethical conduct.’
  • ‘The most recent Human Sciences Research Council South African Social Attitudes Survey undertaken in 2012 shows that 74% of South Africans believe that corruption has increased.’
  • ‘The survey showed an increase level of public concern with corruption. In 2003 only 9% of South Africans indicated that corruption was one of the key challenges confronting the nation, but this increased to 26% by 2011.’
  • ‘The survey revealed that 66% of South Africans believe that SAPS officials are corrupt, 38% had the perception that Home Affairs officials were corrupt, and 37% felt that national politicians are involved in corruption. In the same survey, 37% suspected that officials managing tender applications and 36% of officials employed in judicial services were involved in unethical conduct.’
  • ‘On the causes of corruption, 63% of South Africans attributed corruption to the national government and Parliament’s inability to deal with it effectively, and 33% said corruption was the result of ineffective lax punitive measures on the part of the judiciary.’
  • ‘The perceptions of South Africans are consistent with global trends. Transparency International’s 2013 survey revealed that 53% of people around the world hold the view that corruption has increased.’

The ISS will be providing commentary and analysis of election results. Watch the ISS website for further information on SA election issues and follow ISS election commentary on Twitter #SAelectionwatch.

For media interviews and further information contact Proof Communication:

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The ISS is grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
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