Cape Town - Mossel Bay’s Ward 13 by-election – won by the DA – took place amid tensions after three days of violent protests.
Police were out in force.
In an attempt to quell the tension on Wednesday, mayor Marie Ferreira, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato and Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Zou Kota-Fredericks met a residents’ committee to discuss solutions to problems in Kwanonqaba, part of the ward.
Later, at a meeting at a sports stadium, Ferreira was given a hostile reception, while Plato was heckled and residents scuffled with ANC office-bearers.
The DA retained the seat, with 737 votes for its candidate, Rosina Henrietta Ruiters.
Elizabeth Joubert of the Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa gained 476 votes and Faizell Baselero Porter of the ANC, 259
The provincial head of the Electoral Commission of SA, Courtney Sampson, said the ward had 3 292 registered voters.
The seat became vacant when the DA ended the incumbent’s party membership.
DA provincial elections manager Jaco Londt said: “We are happy with the way voting took place. Despite four days of protests, a heavy police presence in the area ensured things ran smoothly.”
The run-up to the by-election had been marred by violent protests that broke out in Kwanonqaba on Sunday.
Residents demanded that the municipality stop cutting illegal power connections, install electricity services, and provide sanitation and housing for people in informal settlements.
A municipal office was set alight and a police unit’s offices petrol-bombed. Thirty people were arrested.
Addressing about 1 500 people at the stadium, Ferreira said the municipality was concerned about illegal electricity connections as they posed a danger to residents, especially children.
“But for humanitarian reasons, I’m giving an undertaking to stop the disconnection of the illegal connections. I’m appealing to the protesters to stop these actions, so service delivery can go back to normal.”
Ferreira said she would meet the residents’ committee at 1pm on Thursday to discuss grievances.
Taking the microphone, a resident on the podium shouted that the protests would continueuntil all demands had been met. This was greeted by cheers, with some in the crowd gesturing that Ferreira should leave the stadium.
They demanded the release of residents arrested on public violence charges.
Tensions ran high, with some residents becoming involved in a scuffle with ANC office-bearers, including the party’s provincial secretary, Songezo Mjongile, who was pushed around.
They accused the officials of failing the community.
Plato asked residents to select seven people with whom the officials could “negotiate”.
Kota-Fredericks said what had taken place in Kwanonqaba was “an explosion” of issues ignored by the municipality.
She condemned the violence.
Children have not attended school since the protest started.
Resident Madoda Sonandi said the protest was started by residents of Ezindlovini, an informal settlement near Kwanonqaba, after municipal workers severed a cable they were using for electricity. Kwanonqaba and Langeni residents had joined the protest in solidarity.