Protests, closed voting stations mar special voting in Eastern Cape

Special voting was disrupted in certain parts of the Eastern Cape on Monday.
Special voting was disrupted in certain parts of the Eastern Cape on Monday.

The first day of special voting in the Eastern Cape was disrupted when communities in Ginsberg, outside King William’s Town, and Idutywa barricaded the entrance to their areas with burning tyres and rocks on Monday.

Electoral Commission officials were threatened with violence when they tried to enter Ginsberg. Tiso Blackstar journalists were also threatened with violence when they arrived to cover the disruptions. A group of men carrying rocks and sticks stormed towards the journalists and threatened to burn their vehicle and assault them.

A private contractor who had been called to fix a water problem in the Ginsberg township was stoned and blocked from entering the area.

A truck carrying building material was also stoned.

About 20 policemen were seen sitting in their vehicles keeping an eye on the protesters.

In East London, two voting stations had yet to open around midday. 

At Haven Hills in Amalinda, a tent which was to be used as a voting station had not yet been erected by midday. Electoral Commission officials were sitting in their car not able to help voters. Two voters, who refused to be named, left without voting. The voting station has 30 special votes registered with 20 of those expected to visit the voting station.

"We cannot help people as the tent which was supposed to be erected hasn't been, and we were just told to wait," said one IEC official.

The Morningside Old Apostolic Church, also in Amalinda, was closed at midday.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Col Sibongile Soci confirmed that there was a community protest in Ginsberg and police were working on ensuring that the roads to the township are opened by Monday afternoon.

"Community leaders are now engaged in a meeting with politicians in an effort to sort the problem out. Police are monitoring the situation."

Soci, however, indicated that police were ready to deploy sufficient members throughout the province to ensure that the election took place peacefully at all of its 4,791 polling stations.

"I would like to assure members of the public that all safety and security measures have been put in place to create an environment for crime-free elections. Certain areas have been identified as hotspots which we have categorised as low, medium or high-risk."

Soci called on members of the public not to take weapons to the polling stations and urged them to adhere to the instructions of the presiding officers at all times. 

"I would like to emphasise that we will not tolerate any form of criminality, intimidation and disruptive behaviour, including drunkenness at the polling stations. We are aware of instigators in various parts of the province and we will deal with them without fear or favour," concluded Soci.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Fikile Xasa has called for tolerance in order to realise the objective of peaceful elections without any disruptions across the province. 

He urged all communities to exercise their right to vote and assured them that all the challenges relating to service delivery in some parts of the province will be attended to continuously by the government.

"Government calls for patience from all community members as government will continue to attend to service delivery concerns, even beyond elections. We encourage our communities to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections and to do so in secret in a free and fair environment," Xasa said.

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