PREPARATIONS for by-elections to replace the three councillor candidates murdered in KwaZulu-Natal shortly before August’s municipal elections, begin this weekend with voter registration and the verification of voters’ addresses.

Bongani Skhosana, Khanyisile Ngobese-Sibisi and Thembi Mbongo — all of whom were ANC candidates — were shot and killed just before the municipal elections.

The killings were believed to have been politically motivated. But the names of the three still appeared on the voters roll, resulting in their "election".

According to a report by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, 20 people were killed in the province before the municipal elections, in what are believed to have been political killings: 12 were said to be ANC members, while three were linked to the National Freedom Party, another three to the IFP and two to the SACP.

Head of the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) in KwaZulu-Natal, Mawethu Mosery, said on Thursday that by-elections in Skhosana’s ward 1 in Umuziwabantu Local Municipality (Harding), Ngobese-Sibisi’s ward 20 in Alfred Duma Local Municipality (Ladysmith) and Mbongo’s ward 6 in Newcastle Local Municipality (northern KwaZulu-Natal) would be held on November 7.

Mosery said the IEC was working with various political parties, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the municipalities concerned and the police to ensure that the planned by-elections run smoothly.

He also said even other political parties, including the NFP, which did not participate in the August 3 polls, would be eligible to field candidates in the by-elections.

The by-elections would also be the first where the Constitutional Court order for the IEC to produce and verify voters address would come into effect.

The court made the ruling in respect of the by-elections in the Tlokwe Municipality. But it was relaxed to allow the August 3 local government poll to proceed.

"Our officials will be in full force in these three areas to help with the process. New voters will be registered. About 10% of the voters here don’t have verifiable address and they would be required to give proof of address to be eligible to vote," Mosery said.

He said none of the three areas posed any security threat but the IEC was nonetheless working with the police. "Our assessment is that the killings were targeted at individuals, it was not because there were widespread tensions and violent unrest in these area," he said.

Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst in the province, said it was worth noting how the ANC handled the nomination process in the three wards.

He said although the wards had been won by the "dead" ANC candidates, it was not a foregone conclusion that other candidates fielded by the party would win the by-elections.

The announcement of the by-elections date comes just days after KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu began started consulting ahead of the planned establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into political murders in the province.

Mosery said the IEC was in full support of the probe into the political killings. "As a body charged with overseeing elections, we certainly support the move to establish such a commission because it would give us a clue of what triggered these killings. Perhaps this would also help us to know what we can do to prevent such killings and attacks in the future."