Murder at the polling station

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IOL South Africa Elections~3

AP

FILE PHOTO: Election workers hand over ballot papers to elderly and disabled South African voters to cast their ballots during early voting. Picture: Ben Curtis

Bheki Mbanjwa, Kamcilla Pillay and Marianne Mertens

Durban - A 30-year-old woman volunteer manning an ANC information table was shot dead in front of her colleagues just after a KwaDukuza polling station closed on Wednesday night.

This incident stood in stark contrast to other areas in the province, where polling was peaceful.

The biggest problems in KZN seemed to be the 300 000 people who wanted to vote at stations other than where they were registered.

On Thursday morning KZN provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said the volunteer had been shot to send a message to the ruling party.

The reasons for this claim and the exact message, Zikalala said, would form part of the police investigation into the incident.

 

“There was no report of an argument or confrontation before she was shot. All we heard was news of the murder.”

He said the woman could not be identified because her family still had to be informed of the attack.

The incident took place just minutes after the voting station had closed at about 9pm.

An ANC member who witnessed the incident blamed the IFP for the attack. She did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

She was part of a group of ANC members waiting at an information table outside the Lindelani Community hall.

“There were about 50 of us. We were standing there toyi-toying while we waited for results. Then a group of about 70 IFP members came towards us. They were also toyi-toying and as they passed shots rang out.”

She did not see who fired the shots, saying it was hard to see as it was “a bit dark”.

The witness said there was not even time to run. She said she just felt numb.

“(The victim) was dead within 30 minutes. I don’t know how many times she was shot I just saw one chest wound but the comrades who examined her body said she had been shot twice.”

The woman said ANC members were now living in fear and added that the IFP members had not been provoked.

Deputy national spokesman of the IFP, Joshua Mazibuko, said he was not aware of the incident, and did not have the facts at hand.

“I can say that it is unfortunate that any soul was lost regardless of who caused it. Of course, we condemn the use of any such violence in the strongest terms.”

Zikalala said: “We condemn this heinous and barbaric attack in the strongest possible terms. It is clear that the killing had been well planned to instil fear among ANC volunteers on election day.”

The Lindelani area, he said, had over the years been known as a no-go area for ANC members during election campaigns.

On Wednesday, the ANC claimed one of its members was assaulted by a senior IFP leader in Greytown.

Police are investigating these claims.

“We call on our members to remain calm and resist being intimidated by this act of cowardice.

“The ANC will be engaging senior management of the police to ensure that they pay serious attention to this matter so that the perpetrators can be apprehended and brought to book.”

He added that the party’s thoughts and prayers were with the family and friends of the woman.

On Wednesday the shortage of forms to enable people to vote at a station other than where they were registered, left election officials and at least one political party - the DA - scrambling to print more to avoid a disaster. And some stations nearly ran out of ballot papers, slowing the voting process as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) dashed to obtain more supplies.

The IEC, blaming the problem on higher than expected demand, had to print an additional 300 000 VEC4 forms, which have to be filled in by people voting outside their voting districts.

The DA also printed some to help speed things up, but the move was being viewed as “very suspicious” by the IFP, who said last night after many of the voting stations had closed that it would lodge an official complaint. It said it opened the window for fraud.

However, the IEC’s provincial spokesman, Mawethu Mosery, said there was nothing untoward with the forms being printed by political parties as they could also be downloaded from the internet.

He said the stations affected the most by the shortage were in the eThekwini metro, uMhlathuze (Richards Bay) and Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) municipalities.

The problem was apparently caused when some parties began transporting people from stations where there were long queues to other, quieter ones.

This was despite assurances by the IEC that it had a plan to manage long queues.

Some individuals are also thought to have tried to avoid long queues where they were registered.

 

The IFP was also unhappy with a claim that by 6pm on Wednesday all the 6 million provincial and national ballot papers printed by the IEC had been exhausted.

“It points to a very suspicious development which may impact negatively on the credibility of the whole election,” said the IFP’s national chairman, Blessed Gwala.

“We find it nearly impossible to accept this state of affairs; hence we call on the IEC to urgently institute an independent investigation.”

Gwala would not say whether the IFP would accept the results of the election.

“We are speaking to our lawyers and will be speaking to the party leadership about this.”

However, Mosery said ballot papers had not been exhausted as no additional papers were printed.

The DA said voting went fairly well but was concerned by the “level of competence shown by the IEC in eThekwini”.

“Apart from that, the other things were just minor issues, but we also had situations where some parties were campaigning inside voting stations,” said DA leader, Sizwe Mchunu.

The provincial chairman of the NFP, Vikizitha Mlotshwa, said he had received a few worrying reports from party agents about the elections. These included members being turned away for wearing party regalia.

 

Only 100 voting stations in KZN were still open after the 9pm cut off. By 10pm some stations were still open for those people who were in the queue at 9pm.

The final results are expected to be out by midnight on Thursday.

KZN figures as at 9am: ANC 608 356; DA 81 116; IFP 124 223, NFP 81 801, and MF 2 989.

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