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Troops flood ground, air as SA votes today

More than one lakh troops and police are being deployed in a massive security operation to guarantee the integrity of South Africa's seco...

More than one lakh troops and police are being deployed in a massive security operation to guarantee the integrity of South Africa’s second democratic elections, the government said on Monday.

The security forces will be supported by over 100 aircraft for Wednesday’s vote, which will go ahead under the threat of violence — albeit diminished — in several identified flash-point areas, Safety and Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi told reporters.

His announcement came as Zulu nationalist leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said in the eastern city of Durban that stubborn “pockets of intolerance” could affect the staging of free and fair polls in volatile KwaZulu-Natal province.

In the last day of campaigning before Wednesday’s vote, President Nelson Mandela urged Whites not to waste their votes on predominantly White parties like the New National Party and the Democratic Party, which would only defend White privilege.

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“If you are supporting these parties, you are wasting your vote. These parties will neverhold power in this country again. With the ANC (African National Congress) you will have a home, you will not be wasting your vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, polling stations opened to take ballots from the elderly, infirm and people who will be working during the election, including the security forces. Electoral officials also visited hospitals and old-age homes to gather votes.

Mufamadi warned those who have not registered for the poll not to turn up at voting stations on Wednesday. “Those who have not registered should not go,” he said in response to a survey which showed that up to a million people who have not registered plan to vote.

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The minister said possible flash points had been identified in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and central Gauten province. “The visibility of security forces (in these areas) will be much higher than at your average polling station,” he added. He was confident, however, that the election would go off peacefully, noting: “The basis of our confidence iswhat we experienced in the run-up to election day.”

Some 775 rallies, mass meetings and marches throughout the country have been secured by the security forces without a major incident. Buthelezi, speaking to reporters in the KwaZulu-Natal port of Durban, was less optimistic. “There are incidents which discourage one from being confident that they (the elections) will be free and fair,” he said during a final campaign swing by his Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) through the province’s biggest city. Buthelezi claimed he himself had been prevented twice from addressing rallies in the province in the past month by “people wearing African National Congress T-shirts”.

“There have been incidents of violence and intimidation,” he said, listing the burning of IFP posters and attacks on IFP members in the lead-up to the poll. Buthelezi, who is also South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, said further: “I’m hoping there will not be as much violence as we had in 1994. One regrets the fact that there should be anyviolence in a democratic South Africa but the whole culture of violence that came at the time of the armed struggle will be here for quite some time.”

First published on: 02-06-1999 at 12:00:00 am
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