S.Africa's ANC attempts to calm fears over election violence

Africa, ANCJohannesburg - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday attempted to soothe fears over rising political violence in the run-up to elections, saying it predicted a peaceful ballot.

"We are going to have a peaceful election, I can predict that," ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe was quoted by the South African Press Association (SAPA) as telling reporters after a weekend of attacks on politicians that left at least nine injured.

Nine ANC members were reportedly injured in two separate incidents Sunday, three by gunshots, during clashes with supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in northern KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday.

The clashes occurred as members of both parties gathered in the town of Nongoma, a stronghold of the mainly Zulu IFP, for rival rallies.

In one incident, an ANC member of parliament and two women travelling with him from a party rally were ambushed in their car and shot. One of the women was seriously injured.

In an other incident, at least six ANC members sustained injuries when buses carrying them to the rally came under attack by individuals believed to be IFP supporters.

South Africa is preparing for its fourth democratic elections since the end of apartheid in the early 1990s. The arrival onto the scene last year of a new political party of former ANC members, the Congress of the People (COPE), has galvanized the opposition which hopes to whittle down the ANC's hefty majority.

The election date, expected to be in April or May, has yet to be set but campaigning is well under way.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC's biggest rival is the IFP. The two parties fought bitterly over the province in the early 1990s, costing thousands of lives.

The ANC accuses the party of trying to make parts of the province into no-go areas for its campaigners, but the ruling party has also been accused of provocative behaviour. The Nongoma rally was the second ANC rally since November to be staged on the doorstep of an opposition rally.

ANC President Jacob Zuma has expressed his concern over the attacks and called for political tolerance. Zuma, a native of KwaZulu-Natal, is the frontrunner for president in the elections.

On Monday, Defence Minister Charles Nqakula said the army stood ready to bolster police efforts to keep the peace. (dpa)