Pretoria - Some schools in the volatile Vuwani area in Limpopo have refused to lease their premises for use as voting stations in the upcoming May 8 general elections, fearing their buildings would be targeted by irate community members.
Government's justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS), led by Police Minister Bheki Cele briefed journalists in Pretoria on the readiness to deliver free and fair elections, within a week.
"There have been [school] principals that have refused to sign the lease agreements with the IEC so that they can handover their schools as voting stations. Those schools have been reduced to six now," said Cele who was flanked by fellow ministers - Siyabonga Cwele of Home Affairs Minister and State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.
Cele said citizens in areas where the schools have refused to be used as voting stations will cast their ballots in South African National Defence Force (SANDF) tents.
"The SANDF is available to provide the alternative venues, their tents. The SANDF members do not guard voting stations but because these would be their own tents and facilities, they will take [responsibility]," said Cele.
Cwele said because of assurances from the security cluster, the number of Limpopo schools that were refusing to be voting stations has significantly declined.
"You will remember that schools were burnt in Vuwani. Quite a number of schools, so you will understand the anxiety of those charged with administering those schools. That has been the main concern in terms of contracting the IEC. Because of engagements and assurances from the security cluster, the number has come down from about 13 to six schools now. The six are still having those anxieties in terms of allowing the IEC to utilise them," said Cwele.
The JCPS cluster on Thursday outlined a massive deployment of state security machinery and officers, particularly to the "hot spot" provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and North West, as a pre-stabilisation mechanism ahead of the tightly contested May 8 general elections in South Africa.
Letsatsi-Duba said despite some pre-election disturbances experienced in Gauteng, the province has sufficient capacity to deal with any eventualities on election Day.
"Gauteng has enough capacity. The two provinces we mentioned [as hot spots], we specifically identified them because they need reinforcement. Gauteng, we strongly feel they have enough capacity to deal with whatever protest or threats which can make make elections impossible. It doesn't mean there are no hot spots in Gauteng, there are a number of them, she said.
Throughout the press briefing on Thursday, government sought to assure all South Africans that there wouldn’t be any no-go areas on voting day. Election time in South Africa is characterised by an upsurge of service delivery protests, with some communities threatening that voting would not take place in their regions until their grievances are addressed.
A total of 51 306 officers will be deployed to voting stations on May 8.
African News Agency/ANA