Election campaigning by the African National Congress was disrupted on Thursday in Bekkersdal, the party said.
Brian Hlongwana, the chief whip of the ANC in Gauteng, said in a statement that their planned caucus meeting with the community was disrupted by youth in Bekkersdal.
There could never be a concept of no-go areas in a democratic society. “It is unacceptable that schooling should be disrupted as it was done today and legitimate public representatives being barred from doing their work,” said Hlongwa.
“Problems in Bekkersdal must be resolved urgently with all stakeholders playing their role otherwise anarchy will derail democratic progress in that township.”
He said the ruling party's understanding was that there were two major problems raised by the community.
The first was the removal of the mayor and council, constitutional matters which were being dealt with through mechanisms provided there, with the second being allegations of corruption.
“In this regard, we believe the Gauteng government together with the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association have agreed on how to resolve it with programmes involving relevant state investigative institutions,” said Hlongwa.
“So, clearly, there are commitments and a programme to deal with the challenges at least from the part of government, but I think as caucus we should ensure that these processes are accelerated.”
This would mean that Bekkersdal residents must be engaged with on a continued basis and also ensure the leadership of the aggrieved also take responsibility.
The Economic Freedom Fighters said Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane and other ANC members went to Bekkersdal to hand over RDP houses to the community.
“(Premier) Nomvula Mokonyane and her crew came to hand over some RDP houses and seeing that the community was not interested and rejected her, they then forced themselves into Bekkersdal to campaign,” said EFF co-ordinator Omphile Maotwe in a statement.
“We are disturbed to learn that the police accused these young school children of throwing stones at unmarked state cars, and fired rubber bullets to disperse them.”
Thabang Wesi, the leader of the Concerned Residents of Bekkersdal, told Sapa that residents were surprised when they saw bodyguards with weapons in the township.
He said the guards shot at unarmed people, mainly school pupils.
“Residents then managed to retaliate. The situation was very tense,” he said.
Wesi said they would not stop anyone from voting in the upcoming elections on May 7. He however appealed to residents to vote wisely.
“If people want to vote, let them go vote... but they must vote out the ruling party. We can see the ANC is arrogant and uses force to coerce us into voting for them,” he said.
Wesi questioned the logic behind the ANC's move to visit the township without consulting them first. He said other parties had visited the area with no disruptions and conflicts.
Maotwe said Mokonyane must accept that the community of Bekkersdal rejects her and her leadership.
“These are the very same people she told that she does not want their dirty votes.”
Gauteng police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila was not available for comment. - Sapa