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Potchefstroom - Tensions were simmering on Wednesday in Tlokwe's wards 26 and 18, where the ANC was facing off with two of its former councillors in by-elections.
“The tension is understandable,” African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said outside a voting station at St Augustine's Anglican Church in ward 26.
“We going for the same constituency. We going for the same people who voted for them in 2011 when they were ANC members,” he said.
A police Nyala and a police van were parked outside the voting station.
The ward is being contested by ANC candidate Oupa Mogoshane and independent candidate Butiki “Stone” Mahlabe, who was an ANC councillor in the area for 12 years.
Mahlabe was one of 14 councillors expelled by the ANC in July after its provincial disciplinary committee found them guilty on four counts of misconduct for participating in a motion of no confidence in Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle.
Maphetle was replaced by Democratic Alliance councillor Annette Combrink.
The ANC's national disciplinary committee later overturned the expulsions.
Despite this, eight of the councillors registered as independent candidates for the by-elections.
Mthembu said the ANC was not threatened by Mahlabe and was confident residents would vote for the party.
“The people of Tlokwe know in their hearts what the ANC has done for them. We come with a track record of having improved their lives.”
He said the independent candidates wanted to “grab this electorate” for themselves, but they would not succeed.
Mthembu made reference to the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The roads were beautifully decorated, but when the donkey returned alone the roads were not decorated and it was beaten.
“We hope the same will happen here,” he said.
Residents supporting Mahlabe walked around in red T-shirts with his photo printed on them.
Resident Philemon Alwin said the community had decided to group itself and elect Mahlabe as its leader to take its grievances to the Tlokwe council.
“We are taking him back because when he was councillor he would give us feedback and we were happy with the work he was doing,” Alwin said, speaking in Setswana.
“We were not happy when he was kicked out [of the ANC] because it was not what we wanted.”
He said he would go back to the ANC only once it had sorted out issues affecting the party.
“The ANC only does things for people when it is elections,” said Alwin.
Ward 26 is the biggest area being contested, with 5677 registered voters.
By-elections were meant to be held in nine Tlokwe wards, but the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein ordered on Tuesday night that five of the by-elections be postponed.
This was after the court heard an application by five independent candidates who were disqualified from taking part in the by-elections by the Independent Electoral Commission.
A sixth by-election, in ward 13, was earlier postponed after an out-of-court settlement.