Police on high alert after violent protests

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IOL SI Alexandra protest 03 (41837977) Independent Newspapers. EFF supporters burn tyres during a demonstration this week. Picture: Paballo Thekiso.

Johannesburg - As security forces maintained a strong presence in Alexandra township last night to prevent any further protests, police were investigating the killing of an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) member in Vosloorus in the early hours of yesterday.

Thapelo Lekana, 28, was shot four times outside his gate in Vosloorus at 5am.

Provincial police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila confirmed that police were investigating the death but said they did not know the motive for the killing or what Lekana’s political affiliation was.

He confirmed that Lekana was found lying in a pool of blood.

Gauteng EFF convener Mgini Tshwaku told The Sunday Independent that Lekana was wearing an EFF beret and was coming from a meeting when he was attacked.

Aside from his cellphone, nothing else was taken, said Tshwaku.

IOL SI Alex votes riots 429 (41837987) Police patrol the Alexs 8th Street. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng. Independent Newspapers.

Malila could not confirm this.

Alexandra, meanwhile, remained volatile yesterday although calm was restored by afternoon after the army and public order police were deployed on Friday night.

Fifty nine residents were arrested overnight as members of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the EFF embarked on violent protests.

On Thursday afternoon IFP supporters allegedly held election officials and ANC members hostage after they saw a ward councillor holding ballot boxes and boxes being loaded into a car.

Later in the evening, 31 Alex residents were arrested after the area’s IEC centre was burnt down by angry residents, who alleged that there was vote rigging.

The protesters targeted state property, torching and vandalising buildings including a yet-to-be opened clinic and council offices.

IOL SI Alexandra protest 02 (41837978) Police do a search in Alexander yesterday after chaos erupted in the township. They were protesting for marked EFF ballots that were found dumped in Alexander and were asking for a recount of votes. Picture:Paballo Thekiso. Independent Newspapers.

Yesterday a large contingent of police was seen patrolling the streets and potential violent hot spots. “We’re relieved the army came this morning,” said a policeman who asked not be named as he’s not a spokesman.

“It’s quiet but volatile. Anything can still happen, that’s why we’re keeping an eye. We are deployed all over the area,” he said.

Mpho Moerane, chairman of the local ANC branch, said residents were shaken by the violence.

“The community is still afraid because of what has happened. Buildings owned by council were burned down.

“But we have confidence in the security cluster to deal with the matter. When the army came in, everything stopped. I’m sure the army is on stand-by once the violence starts again.”

Tensions started mounting across the country after voting on Wednesday.

In KwaMashu and KwaDukuza in KwaZulu Natal, two people were shot – one of them fatally– in two separate incidents.

And in another incident, two people were arrested after they stormed a voting station in Tzaneen, Limpopo and attacked police on duty, election officials and party agents, and damaged voting material.

On election day there were five protests across the country – in Maruleng in Limpopo, Gugulethu in Gauteng, Botshabelo in the Free State, eNgcobo in the Eastern Cape, and Barcelona in the Western Cape.

There have also been media reports of a group of people in Bekkersdal storming a voting station and attacking police on duty, a group of IEC officials, and party agents accusing them of marking ballots and smuggling it into the hall.

And in a separate incident a man was arrested in Bekkersdal for allegedly setting alight the IEC’s tents in the area on the eve of the elections.

 

To date 283 individuals have been arrested for allegedly committing election-related offences since the first registration weekend in November last year.

The cases include murder, culpable homicide, intimidation, assault, theft, malicious damage to property and contravening the Electoral Act, said national police spokesman Solomon Makgale.

Crime analyst Lizette Lancaster, who manages the Institute of Security Studies’ crime and justice information hub, says the incidents show that election-related violence is shifting from rivalry between political parties to service delivery and labour issues.

If the current trend continues, the run up to the 2016 local government elections will be fraught with similar violent protests.

Lancaster says if one considers that there were over 22 000 polling stations in the country, the five protests are a relatively low number and therefore isolated incidents.

Lancaster has been tracking election related violence since January 2013.

She has found that over the last seven months, there were 78 election-related incidents and protests, of which two-thirds became violent.

Thirty-five percent of violent protests happened in Gauteng, 22 percent in the Western Cape, 14 percent in KZN, 13 percent in the Eastern Cape and 12 percent in North West.

The institute’s research shows that more than half of all election-related violence occurs in South Africa’s most hotly contested provinces – Gauteng and the Western Cape. She said the pattern of violence has been broken from previous elections.

While there are still elements of political rivalry, other issues that have come to the fore are labour or service delivery.

“If you look at KwaZulu-Natal in the late 90s we saw violence and a lot of killings as a result of political rivalry. Now the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape have been labelled hot spots because of service delivery issues,” said Lancaster.

“The citizens are using the elections as a platform to air their grievances and the IEC gets targeting as agents of the state.” - The Sunday Independent



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