KZN and North West the 'highest-risk areas' for election violence

Police minister Bheki Cele on Thursday said KZN and North West were the 'highest-risk areas' for the May 8 general elections.
Police minister Bheki Cele on Thursday said KZN and North West were the 'highest-risk areas' for the May 8 general elections.

Police have identified KZN and North West as the highest risks for violence during next week's general elections.

But the state has vowed it will be on top of things, and is confident that safety and security measures have been put in place to create a safe environment for free and fair elections.

Police minister Bheki Cele told journalists on Thursday that through the security cluster's intelligence-driven operations, hot spots in the country have been identified and will be prioritised.

He said that, as part of a deployment strategy, teams will be maintained at national level to be deployed to any part of the country where the situation requires urgent intervention..

“The highest-risk areas are the North West and KZN provinces,” said Cele.

KZN was a particular risk because there were areas still experiencing political violence, including KwaDukuza in Ilembe, Ndwedwe and in Bhekuzulu, a township in Vryheid.

Cele said hostels - where there was interference during the registration process and during campaigning - were specifically high-risk.

In the North West, Cele said it was a concern that even the premier could not go to some places, and that buses were burnt in Brits during campaigning. He said this amounted to interference with people's constitutional rights, and that police would take action in such incidences.

He said there already has been a pre-deployment of police to ensure "pre-stabilisation" in hot spot areas.

State security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba said that while Gauteng has seen a number of service delivery protests in recent weeks, the security cluster was confident  it has enough capacity to deal with any protests or threats to the elections in Gauteng.

"Gauteng has enough manpower," she said.

She said they were targeting the North West and KZN because of threat assessments which were informed by daily intelligence work.

"We can confirm that in these two provinces, there are elements of activities which could undermine the election processes from running smoothly," said Letsatsi-Duba.

A whopping 51,306 police officers will be deployed to voting stations on election day and 3,504 reservists will be deployed nationwide.

Cele said police will enhance visibility and prevent any form of criminal activity in and around voting stations and the results centres. Furthermore, police officials will monitor all forms of protests or "shutdowns" to ensure that no individual's constitutional right to vote will be infringed upon.

Police officers will also escort presiding officers who will visit the homes of those people who will participate in special voting on May 6 and 7.

Law enforcement agencies will also provide security services to the presiding and voting officers when they collect and deliver ballot papers and boxes to voting stations.

Meanwhile, to ensure access to the correct documentation, the department of home affairs will extend operational hours at front offices from May 6 to May 8 in a drive to help eligible voters collect IDs they had applied for, or to apply for new IDs or temporary IDs.

The front offices of the department of home affairs will also align its operational hours for identification services to those of the IEC, meaning the operational hours will be extended from 4pm to 7pm to cater for people seeking access to services on these two special voting days.

Home affairs frontline offices will also provide public services on election day, from 7am until 9pm.

The department noted that by the end of March 2019, there were 358,877 uncollected smart ID cards and green ID books – with 355,257 of those uncollected documents being the smart ID cards.

Gauteng has the most uncollected smart ID cards at 101,787, followed by KZN with 55,634 uncollected smart cards, and the Eastern Cape with 46,504. The Northern Cape has the lowest with only 12,255 waiting to be collected.

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