Some citizens decided to use voting day as the perfect opportunity to protest, with flare ups occurring sporadically throughout the country.
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said they had received isolated reports of unrest and community protests, particularly in some wards in the Eastern Cape. Mashinini said this included some voting districts in Ward 16 in Ntabankulu, as well others in Ward 8 in Amathole.
“Security forces had been deployed to ensure voting could start as soon as possible in these areas,” he said.
One of the wards was in Cambridge in East London where police fired rubber bullets and had to use teargas to disperse residents.
Residents there burnt tyres and threw stones, demanding that ANC member Mbulelo Vula be the candidate for their ward and not the person listed on their ballot papers.
“We want someone who knows our problems – the one we have received is from Amalinda. We don’t know him,” said resident Ayanda Beda.
Several people were arrested as police moved in to control the situation. One woman said her grandmother was arrested as she was trying to vote.
IEC officials fear for safety
Nozuka Mgahuli told News24 she had just returned from the police station after giving her frail grandmother warm clothes. “I don’t know what to do. She has asthma. We told the police she is sick,” she said.
IEC officials stationed at Gcobani community hall near Cambridge township said they feared for their safety after the community tried to torch the hall earlier. A small group of protesters ran away from police after they attempted to set the hall alight.
An IEC official said the protesting group came in through the backyard and pushed their way through a hole in the fence.
“We were sitting here waiting for residents when we heard a loud noise. We went to search the other room and saw a large number of young boys holding paraffin. We shouted for police and they ran away,” the IEC official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told News24.
The official told News24 they felt safer with police in the area but feared that the protesters would come back. “We are scared. We don’t know if they will burn this place with us still inside.”
Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at the protesters.
‘Act of treason’
ANC provincial secretary, Oscar Mabuyane, called the protest an act of treason. Speaking to journalists after he cast his vote at Buffalo City College, Mabuyane said the protest was inhibiting people’s right to vote.
“We can’t allow anyone in South Africa to disrupt the elections. People must respect that. The internal political issues must be addressed by political parties.”
He said the ANC would look into council list issues beyond election day. “The law enforcement must deal with these issues. Everyone has a right to vote. If you blockade and infringe other the people’s right… It’s kind of a treason,” he said.
In Vuwani, Limpopo, voting stations did not open on time. Residents didn’t look bothered with some saying they would rather fetch water and play soccer than go and vote.
Refusing to vote was their way of expressing their unhappiness with the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate their villages into a new, still to-be-named municipality.
They said they wanted to remain under the Makhado Municipality.
Vuwani digs in
Residents had dug ditches across some roads and blocked them with rocks in an attempt to stop IEC officials from getting to the area. The army moved in and police Nyala vehicles were parked on street corners.
Minister of Co-operative Governance Des Van Rooyen said that not voting was a constitutional right, but it meant people would have no control over who was elected as their councillor.
“We are urging all people in the affected area to come out in their numbers and elect leaders of their choice,” he said.
Election day in KZN was mired by electoral staff dismissals as well as sporadic protest action.
Police sources, with intimate knowledge of deployments in KZN, said Public Order Policing Unit officers had been deployed to deal with sporadic unrest in Ladysmith on the province’s central escarpment and in Chatsworth, Durban.
At around 08:00 in Chatsworth, a group of residents from the Bottlebrush informal settlement near Croftdene had stoned vehicles passing on the link road from the Higginson Highway in an apparent protest over piped water.
After riot police and crowd management officers were deployed to the scene the situation was described as stable.
Police monitoring situation
In another incident in Mzinyonke in Ezakheni near Ladysmith, voting was interrupted when residents blockaded the roadway. Riot police were deployed to manage the situation.
Police spokesperson, Thulani Zwane, said about 20 people had gathered to block the roads. “It is all clear now and police are monitoring the situation,” he said.
The disruptions in the province came as IEC electoral staff in Ward 95 in Folweni, eThekwini, as well as in Dundee were dismissed amid allegations of electoral fraud.
IEC spokesperson Mawethu Mosery confirmed that police were investigating the allegations.
Another spokesperson, Thabani Ngwira, earlier told News24 the IEC had plans in place to manage the situation, and had deployed relief staff to areas where electoral officers had been removed.
Voting continued without incident elsewhere in the province.