Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Police Minister Bheki Cele said he is closely observing disturbances that took place at voter registration stations at the weekend to identify hotspots that will require more police presence during the general elections.

Cele was responding to reports that a number of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) centres were attacked during service delivery protests at the weekend.

The ANC reported more than 130 incidents at the weekend which impacted on registration. These occurred at less than 0.7% of the 22000 IEC registration stations.

In one of the incidents, a voting station in Durban was petrol bombed on Saturday. KwaZulu-Natal IEC spokesperson Thabani Ngwiri said protesters aggrieved by a lack of service delivery torched the Burlington community hall, which was used as a registration station in Burlington outside Chatsworth.

“We had to erect a marquee as a temporary registration station. The IEC officials were not harmed as they left the hall as soon as the protest started,” said Ngwiri.

He said other protests were reported at two voter registration stations in Ndwedwe outside Durban.

“There were similar incidents in Ulundi. We did experience tension yesterday (Saturday) but today (yesterday) we have not received any reports.

“We are working with police to make sure that our staff members are protected and not intimidated.”

During his voter registration campaign in Umlazi, south of Durban, Cele said the incidents were a lesson for the police ahead of the May elections.

Voter registration was a rehearsal for police to identify troublesome areas and organise themselves to deal with protests when they recur during elections, he said.

“These incidents are a test for us (police) to identify hotspot polling stations that require a serious police presence during elections.”

Cele said he had also heard from Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday that 15 registration stations in Mpumalanga were destabilised on Saturday.

“There were 32 stations in the Eastern Cape that were not opened but we have deployed police to provide security at those stations, which is why they are open today (on Sunday).”

He said similar incidents were reported in North West.

Cele also called on political leaders to interact with protesters to make sure that voting stations would not be targeted.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa called on law enforcement agencies to immediately identify those behind the attacks on voter registration stations and deal with them to set an example.

“Quickly send them to court. This is where you need a special court for events like this because we are going to have elections around May, and you don’t want to discredit it (election).”

Holomisa said the country cannot afford to compromise the elections. “Sentence perpetrators so that people can see tangible results. We should not postpone a case, sentence them now. Otherwise the results of the elections will be questionable,” said Holomisa.

ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said attacks on voting stations was an “assault on democracy”.

“We have dispatched our leaders on the ground to listen to the concerns of those behind this incident (Burlington) and to respond effectively. We call on the law enforcement agencies to investigate this incident and take action against the perpetrators of this dastardly and unconstitutional deed.” said Ntuli.

DA MP Hlanganani Gumbi said political parties “need to show communities that the whole point to voting is to choose the government that represent your views. If you are not satisfied with the current government use that power (voting) to change it”.

Political Bureau