Durban - The army will be on standby to move into strife-torn KwaMashu Hostel if necessary on election day, with authorities saying they are leaving nothing to chance.
Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu said yesterday that about 17 000 police officers would be deployed across the province during the elections, with strong contingents being assigned to the volatile areas of KwaMashu Hostel in Durban and Wembezi C Section in Estcourt.
However, if a situation developed that was beyond the control of the police, the army would be called to assist in heavily populated KwaMashu, Mchunu told a multiparty political intervention committee at the hostel yesterday.
Other measures would include search-and-seizure operations on election day, and at least six police officers would man each voting station.
About 18 000 voters are registered to vote at the four polling stations at KwaMashu Hostel.
There has been a resurgence in political violence at the hostel and in Wembezi C Section in recent months.
Mchunu and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa are to visit both places on election day to assess the situation.
Fifty international observers and 550 local observers will be monitoring the elections in KwaZulu-Natal, and the majority of these will be in KwaMashu and Wembezi.
Provincial electoral officer Mawethu Mosery warned people not to resort to violence, saying this could lead to parties being disqualified in the area where attacks occurred.
Mosery said although 18 000 people were registered to vote at the KwaMashu Hostel, there had been a poor turnout for the last by-election in March.
The by-election was fiercely contested, but only about 5 000 people cast ballots.
Mosery said this could have been an indication that violence was scaring voters away.
“Parties in this election will need about 63 000 votes to secure one seat, so the 18 000 votes that can come here do not even amount to one seat. It is not worth the bloodshed.”
Mosery also warned that any conduct that contravened the Electoral Act would not be tolerated. This included campaigning in polling stations on election day and interfering in the voting process in any way, such as by using a loud-hailer that could be heard from inside a voting station.
Mchunu said efforts to safeguard the hostel would not end with the May 7 elections.
“If I come back as the MEC I will focus on criminality here because there is a lot of criminality dressed up as politics,” he said.
The mayor of eThekwini, James Nxumalo, said the problems at the hostel were compounded by congestion.
The hostel had about 100 000 residents, many of whom lived in shacks.
“This area would not be enough to accommodate all the houses we want to build, even if we continue with high-rise buildings. We would look at relocating some people to neighbouring areas.”
Nxumalo said the municipality had adopted measures to help the police in their efforts to curb criminality at the hostel. These included installing surveillance cameras, some of which were in operation. Also, floodlights had started going up.