The death of at least 28 individuals yesterday, exactly one month prior to the April general elections in South Africa, raises grave concerns about the prospect of free and fair elections in the country, the ICJ says.
This tragic event happened during an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) election-protest march in the centre of Johannesburg.
The ICJ is concerned that the South African Police seems not to have taken sufficient precautions to prevent easily anticipated violence. In contrast, the police used precautionary measures during an ANC march in Durban last week. The ICJ encourages the authorities of South Africa to conduct an investigation into the breakdown of law and order during the march and to bring those responsible to justice. In particular, the role of the police during the critical moments when their assistance was urgently required must be fully investigated.
Violence in South Africa has been the subject of ICJ concern in the recent past. The ICJ welcomes the findings of the Goldstone Commission which confirmed the conclusions of an ICJ mission to South Africa in September/October 1993. The mission’s report ‘Voting for Peace” raised concern about the following issues:
- The role of the so-called Third Force;
- The need for change on the part of the Police;
- A ban on the carrying of dangerous weapons in public;
- The need for proper training of a National Peace-Keeping Force in accordance with a new concept of policing for the benefit of the community;
- The urgent need for a Reserve International Peace-Keeping Force to be at the disposal of the Electoral Commission.
In light of these concerns, the ICJ put forth a variety of practical measures. These include: steps to be taken for effective policing of the elections; the role of the United Nations, the European Union, the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth in peace-keeping; and the deployment of international police advisers and monitors at polling stations in all potentially volatile areas.
The ICJ calls on the international community to respond positively to its previous calls for a Reserve Peace-Keeping Force of at least four battalions under the command of South Africa to be at the disposal of the Electoral Commission. This force would help ensure free and fair elections in South Africa.
The ICJ report “Voting for Peace” is available from the ICJ Secretariat in Geneva.NewsWeb stories