ANC denies poll safety fears

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THE STAR

Residents of Sonop, near Brits in North West, patiently await the arrival of President Jacob Zuma. Although it was rumoured that his failure to arrive was out of concern for his safety, the ANC has denied this. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Rustenburg - An interministerial committee is assessing security concerns in Rustenburg on Wednesday, hours after President Jacob Zuma abandoned a rally and a meet-and-greet in the North West.

The committee, led by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and comprising the ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, visited Sterkspruit and Molteno in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday.

However Mthethwa said security was not an issue for election day.

“Anyone who says there will be no-go areas on election day is day-dreaming,” he said in a statement.

He warned that disruptive actions would not be tolerated.

The interministerial committee was set up to visit areas where there is potential for violence next week as the country goes to the polls.

National police spokesman Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale said this morning that while the SAPS would not be providing extra security directly to the committee, there was already increased police presence in these areas because of the possibility of protests.

So far the committee’s visits have been free of any violent conflict.

On Tuesday The Star was told that traditional and religious leaders had asked Zuma to declare a state of emergency in the platinum belt because of the ongoing strikes.

The IEC said it was increasing security in the North West.

Mthethwa said Madibeng was one of three areas across the country identified as “red zones” that could threaten the elections.

The others were Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape and Malamulele in Limpopo, 240km north of Polokwane, where Zuma is scheduled to attend a May Day rally.

On Wednesday the ANC went into overdrive to deny Zuma’s itinerary had been changed on Tuesday because of security concerns.

“There are no security concerns. There is no reason to say there are any,” said ANC spokesman Keith Khoza. “There is nothing to worry about,” he said.

Zuma had been scheduled to embark on his door-to-door campaign and public address around the troubled mining settlements of Wonderkop and Brits, which have been hit by a protracted, crippling strike over wage demands.

But his programme was altered before he arrived at the Madibeng municipality for his debriefing with councillors, provincial politicians and traditional and religious leaders.

His planned election campaign was turned into an imbizo or consultative forum held behind closed doors.

“Due to the violence in that area, the (North West) provincial executive committee took a deliberate decision that the president will instead speak to people in Sonop (one of the settlements),” said North West provincial chairman Supra Mahumapelo.

“We do not want to draw unnecessary attention. We do not want to give anarchists a platform to advance their agenda.”

Later, the president did not make a scheduled appearance in Sandton at which business people endorsed the governing party’s manifesto.

But according to Khoza, the president’s meeting with traditional leaders in the area simply went on too long, and his schedule had to be changed.

He said as the president headed into the May Day celebrations in Limpopo – the province with major ties to the leaders of both Agang and the EFF, Mamphela Ramphele and Julius Malema respectively – there was no need to worry about his safety.

This morning the IEC’s Kate Bapela said political hotspots were indeed a serious concern for the commission’s officials.

She said security plans were in place and pre-emptive measures, such as officials visiting problem areas’ community leaders, had been implemented.

Bapela said after protesters threatened security on voter registration weekend, the IEC intended to keep the peace to ensure voters were safe regardless of the area they were voting in during the elections.

On Sunday, a rally Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was to have addressed in Freedom Park was cancelled when violence erupted.

Vehicles, including those of Mbalula’s convoy, were pelted with stones, while houses belonging to two councillors and a municipal building were set alight.

Freedom Park and Wonderkop are strongholds of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), a rival of the ANC-linked National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The Star


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