Cape Town - Chaotic scenes erupted around the country as the final weekend of voter registration began on Saturday, with a group of protesters threatening to kill anyone attempting to register in the informal settlement of Khayamandi in Stellenbosch.
Two voting stations in Bekkersdal in Gauteng were also petrol-bombed.
About 50 protesters descended on Khayamandi High School on Saturday morning in a bid to prevent people from registering to vote, and threatened to burn down the school.
The stand-off came after what protesters said was a snub by Premier Helen Zille when they had demanded to meet her on Friday.
The protesters threw rocks and stones at the police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets, eventually managing to disperse the crowd.
The protesters apparently also tried to attack two other registration points in the area, but were thwarted by the police.
Two Nyalas patrolled the area around the school, while several other police vehicles were stationed at the school for the rest of the day.
Reverend Bongani Gobodo, an Independent Electoral Commission officer at the high school, said protesters had originally planned to hand over a memorandum of demands to Stellenbosch mayor Conrad Sidego on Friday.
“They were going to give the memorandum to the mayor, but when the rumours of a visit by Zille spread, they wanted to hand the memorandum over to her. When they couldn’t, they blamed the mayor for denying them access to the premier and attacked the registration point.”
Stellenbosch Municipality spokesman Vernon Bowers said Sidego condemned the protest action.
“The premier wasn’t even in Stellenbosch. We explained as best as we could,” he said.
Zak Mbhele, Zille’s spokesman, said the premier was scheduled to be in Paarl on Friday.
“Premier Zille was not billed to receive a memorandum in Stellenbosch. Her events diary had her scheduled for campaign visits in Paarl. The premier is always happy to engage communities about their concerns, and does so regularly in various areas.”
At the school, Gobodo said people continued to trickle in despite the threats from protesters.
“Only the brave would risk the wrath of the protesters, but there were still small numbers of people registering, although some of them left through the back door to avoid being identified.”
One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had wanted to register, but was afraid to do so.
ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman, campaigning for voter registration in Nyanga, said he had heard about the protesters, but urged them to use the elections to secure a change in leadership.
Meanwhile, the incidents in Bekkersdal on Saturday saw two voting stations closed after they were petrol-bombed and registration staff threatened, said Kate Bapela, the IEC chief communications officer.
She said these incidents were the most serious reported on Saturday, the second-last day of voter registration at 22 263 voting stations across the country.
Bapela said the IEC was working with stakeholders to monitor the situation in Bekkersdal, and would restore registration operations “at the earliest opportunity”.