THE reported death of an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillor in KwaZulu-Natal spoilt what was otherwise a peaceful day.

IFP national organiser Albert Mncwango described the death in hospital of Musawenkosi Godfrey Mahlobo as a damper on voting day. He had been contesting Ward 17 in Ndwedwe local municipality and was allegedly assaulted on Monday night.

Mr Mncwango said three IFP candidates from Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal had been arrested yesterday for "mysterious reasons" and on allegations of intimidation, and he was putting together a legal team to deal with it.

He also said "people are pissed off" in Gwambongi, in Nongoma, because there was neither a voting station nor any staff from the Independent Electoral Commission five hours after voting was meant to have started.

The ANC late yesterday withdrew earlier claims it had made that IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi had handed out party T- shirts to voters queuing at polling stations in Ulundi , in contravention of election regulations.

IFP spokesman Thami Duma said Mr Buthelezi had handed out T-shirts outside the polling station, in line with regulations, and in fact, the ANC had handed out flags at the same time.

Ulundi has traditionally been an IFP stronghold but the ANC campaigned heavily in the area ahead of the election and the IFP splinter party, the National Freedom Party, also counted Ulundi as one of its strongholds.

Police commissioner Gen Bheki Cele described the mood as relaxed when he briefed journalists in Ulundi yesterday.

In the IFP stronghold of Mahlabathini, supporters of the ANC and those of the IFP roamed the streets clad in their party colours - a sight that was not imaginable in the past. This scene was mirrored in Ulundi, where party supporters shared jokes.

Gen Cele said a number of people were arrested on charges related to election violence in KwaZulu-Natal - including the five arrested for the attempted attack on ANC candidate Obed Qulu in KwaMashu this week.

Meanwhile, Jayraj Bachu, an IFP candidate who served for a long time as an ANC councillor for eThekwini, said that the ANC had allegedly sent in four busloads of people to vote in Ward 23 in eThekwini .

Mr Bachu warned three weeks ago that the ANC intended to bus in people from Welberdacht.

Democratic Alliance provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said his party had encountered some "minor challenges", but it seemed after a visit to a number of polling stations that voters had turned out in large numbers to vote.

Among the minor administrative difficulties that were encountered were the late opening of a small number of polling stations and faulty equipment such as the barcode scanners. With Sibongakonke Shoba