CAPE TOWN/DURBAN – As the polls open nationwide, protest action is high on the watch list for authorities and electoral officials.
Protests and sporadic gang violence were two of the issues the Western Cape Independent Electoral Commission officials flagged as threats to the poll.
In the past 12 hours those fears have been borne out.
Overnight, parts of the N2 outside Plettenberg Bay were closed due to a protest. On Wednesday morning, protesters set tyres alight on Steve Biko Drive near Khayelitsha.
Tyres were set alight at Swartklip Road, another indication of the protest action that’s plagued this area for weeks now.
Residents want better housing and services and, as the polls opened on Wednesday morning, they made their anger visible.
The road leading into Khayelitsha was not closed despite protests. The protest has had no effect on the opening of a nearby voting station.
Khayelitsha is one of the biggest townships in the Western Cape, plagued by crime and poverty.
In the last national election, residents voted overwhelmingly for the African National Congress (ANC), the province’s official opposition.
COPS ON ALERT
Police are out in full force in Mitchells Plain following Tuesday’s violent protest in the area.
A group of elderly men who have been neighbours for years braved the cold to be first in line at the Merrydale Primary School.
Brian Adams said he was excited to make his mark.
“This is a norm for us. As the people of Lentegeur, we believe the changes must come in South Africa. This is not for us. We’re leaving behind a legacy for our kids.”
Amid concerns on gang violence and protests in the province, police officials have highlighted 41 hot spots. These areas have been categorised as mid-level threats. Additional police have been deployed to these areas.
Meanwhile, authorities are keeping an eye on a number of potential violence flashpoints specifically in North West province and KwaZulu-Natal.
More than 5 million voters are expected to visit 4,885 polling stations to elect the political party they want in the national assembly and the provincial legislature. And Premier Willies Mchunu and the joint justice and crime prevention cluster have assured voters that all precautions have been taken to ensure that their constitutional right to vote is respected.
Mchunu told Eyewitness News this was the last time he would be in government, so voters have to decide which party would appoint the new premier.
‘I MADE MY MARK’
Some voters have already started arriving at the Mbekweni Community Hall in Paarl, eager to cast their ballots as early as possible.
IEC officials have been setting up since early on Wednesday morning.
More than 900 residents are expected to cast their ballots at the venue, one of 10 in the area.
The first voter arrived 40 minutes early. Norman Pindani said he did this to avoid long queues as he still has to go to work today. He didn’t share who he was voting for but said the decision was not difficult.
“We fought for freedom and the right to vote. I know things have not gone as they should in the country, but I came to make my mark. I have seen some changes and improvement.”