Durban - A blue light police escort, intended for a cabinet minister, became a private escort for the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) during its voter registration campaign in Durban on Sunday.
It emerged that Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Sport and Recreation, and a former league president, was not in a convoy of four vehicles, which two Durban metro police vehicles escorted through the city for most of the day.
Instead, members of the newly elected eThekwini region ANCYL leadership, including its secretary, Thanduxolo Sabelo, were enjoying the VIP treatment.
The metro police and ANCYL said the two police vehicles had been assigned to Mbalula, who had been expected to be at a voting station in Dassenhoek near Mariannhill at 10am.
When the convoy, with blue lights on and sirens blaring, arrived at Bhekokuhle Primary School in Dassenhoek, ANC members erupted in song, welcoming Mbalula.
Instead youth league members, wearing their party T-shirts, emerged from the vehicles.
Later, the blue light convoy left the school and stopped a short distance away where ANC members conducted a quick door-to-door campaign encouraging residents to register for elections.
After 1pm, Mbalula still had not arrived, and the same vehicles were seen speeding to Addington Primary School voting station in Durban. They pushed traffic out of the way and crossed red traffic lights.
At Addington they joined former police commissioner Bheki Cele, who is an ANC national executive committee member.
A short while later, the youth league left in the convoy again, saying they were off to Clermont to meet Mbalula.
Sabelo, who was among those escorted, denied the two police vehicles had been assigned to escort the youth league.
“Those police vehicles were not assigned to us. We were with them because we (the league and police) had to meet Mbalula.
“We were just following them around, showing them venues to be visited by the minister,” he said.
Metro police spokesman S’bonelo Mchunu said a number of metro officers had been assigned to ANC officials during their visit to voter registration venues and for door-to-door campaigns. “The metro police were given the task of escorting any government minister and mayor James Nxumalo,” he said.
He said if the government dignitaries had not arrived, police would not know – they did not open vehicles to see if “Mbalula was inside”.
Meanwhile, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s election campaign was marred by DA claims that his blue light convoy had seriously injured a cyclist at Wedela Township, on the West Rand, an allegation he and ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu dismissed as “irresponsible lies” by a party desperate to score cheap political points.
A DA constituency operations manager in Merafong, Brendon May, claimed he saw the incident unfold just after 11am on Sunday.
He had been driving behind the ANC motorcade when he noticed a group of about 18 cars – including Ramaphosa in a black Audi – come to a halt.
May drove around to the front of the convoy and saw a cyclist lying on the ground by his bicycle. “Three traffic officers got out of one of the cars and moved (the cyclist) to one side,” said May, “and the rest of the convoy just drove on.”
May said one of the vehicles with traffic officers stayed behind.
“(The officer) didn’t want to tell us what had happened, which made us even more suspicious,” said May.
The cyclist appeared disorientated and could barely remember what had happened, according to May.
“His shoes were off. He was holding his ankles. He had abrasions on his elbows, hands and head,” said May.
Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said “this is an unacceptable abuse of power and symptomatic of the ANC leadership’s arrogance in dealing with people”.
But Ramaphosa said: “No, that’s not true. He (cyclist) had an epileptic fit, rode into the tree and fell. And, as any responsible citizen would do, we stopped to help him.”
Mthembu said: “The zealousness with which the DA tries to portray the ANC negatively has undermined the little that is left of its integrity.”