12 000 officers out on election high alert

A 12000-strong police force has been deployed in the Eastern Cape to protect tomorrow’s eagerly awaited local government election.

There were minor glitches yesterday with two voting stations shut down by rain and two by angry service delivery demonstrators and some confusion over special votes, but Independent Election Commission (IEC) provincial head Thami Mraji said: “All systems are ready for the main day!”

Mraji announced yesterday the 12000 police officers would be on duty at all voting stations across the province to help the commission deal with any further disruptions due to bad weather or service delivery protests.

Yesterday was day one for special votes. When asked if there were any problems experienced on the first day of election 2016, Mraji said: “Yes we had some teething problems. In Ward 19 of Mbizana a community protest resulted in the closure of access to five voting stations in the area.”

He said the matter “has been resolved with community leaders. We experienced the same at Ward 6 in Ntabankulu but one of those cases has been resolved and two voting stations have not yet been resolved”.

Mraji said the IEC has since sent the conflict resolution panel “ to go there and talk with members of the community.

  • The other case was Ward 15 in Elliotdale where “two more voting stations are inaccessible due to rain.

“We are watching the situation. We hope those people will vote by today the latest,” added Mraji.

  • In an unrelated case in Mqanduli, two more voting stations were also inaccessible earlier yesterday due to heavy rain. “However, after the rain stopped, people were able to access the voting station with the assistance of the police. Our officials had a tough time and so we got assistance from police to carry people to the voting stations,” Mraji said.

In unrelated cases in Buffalo City’s Ward 3, which covers Southernwood, a group of pensioners housed at Manor and Aldoro old age homes expressed disappointment yesterday when they realised their names were not on the special voters’ roll, despite them claiming they registered as special voters.

In Eldorado old age home more than 15 people did not appear on the list.

Manager of Silver Crown old age home in Amalinda Mary Mashwale said there was major confusion between the IEC and the home because the home had thought the residents were registered for special voting .

“At the beginning of the year, people came to the home claiming to be IEC officials. They said they came to help us apply for special votes. Because I was not here, I cannot confirm whether the process was carried out successfully or not. All I know is that 41 people may not cast their votes this year,” said Mashwale.

Christina Sodlula, 96, who also could not vote yesterday said she hoped that she was still registered in her old address in Mdantsane, now that she was unable to vote at the home.

IEC provincial spokeswoman Pearl Ngoza said she would have to look at the cases individually in order to give a detailed response.

However, Ngoza said it was possible that the applications of the pensioners had not been approved.

These incidents come while the IEC is keeping its fingers crossed that the weather will be fine tomorrow as the commission has identified at least 51 voting stations which are inaccessible due to their geographical location.

Mraji said if the weather conditions continue until tomorrow, helicopters would have to be used to transport election material.

“Remember most of our staff and voters stay in these areas, so the voting stations are accessible to them even when snow falls. What is important for us is to ensure that, as the IEC, we are able to transport material to these areas, and out.”

Two police officers per station have also been assigned to escort election material to 4699 voting stations across the province. — zineg@dispatch.co.za

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