eThekwini a ‘high-risk’ threat to elections

KZN police deputy commissioner Major General Phumelele Makoba says police were watching eThekwini very closely during the elections.

KZN police deputy commissioner Major General Phumelele Makoba says police were watching eThekwini very closely during the elections.

Published May 27, 2024


Durban — The eThekwini municipality has been placed under close surveillance for the duration of the general elections after police identified it as one of the areas in the province with a high risk of disruptive protests, said KwaZulu-Natal deputy police commissioner Major-General Phumelele Makoba.

Makoba said widespread protests, including the two that were staged by truck and taxi drivers who brought the N2 and N3 highways to a halt on Friday, were enough evidence for extra police attention.

Makoba said Durban was a hotspot followed by the Amajuba District in northern KwaZulu-Natal, with 215 polling stations in high-risk areas across the province. As a result, 17 000 extra law enforcement officers had been deployed in the province to enforce the law during elections.

About 2 695 low-risk areas would be monitored by 7 390 police officers, 1 064 medium-risk areas by 4 266 members while 1 290 officers would be deployed to 215 high-risk areas.

“We have 164 high-risk stations in the eThekwini district, hence we are going to have 964 (officers), next high-risk is Amajuba (Newcastle) with 19 (high-risk stations) followed by uThukela (Ladysmith),” she said.

She warned that the Public Order Policing (POP), Tactical Response Team (TRT), National Intervention Unit (NIU), “special force”, metro police and private security personnel would be out in full force.

“We have put measures in place to deal with identified threats and those [people] found to be contravening [the law] will be dealt with in terms of the electoral act and other legislations,” said Makoba.

Makoba was among government and Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) officials who addressed representatives of contesting political parties, independent candidates, international election observers, and the media at the city’s International Convention Centre (ICC) on Friday about the state of readiness for the elections.

Makoba said far-flung rural areas would also receive unusual extra police visibility.

“On Tuesday we will see a large contingent of police officers migrating to outlying far-flagged districts to supplement police officers that are there on the ground,” she said. While the army has not been deployed, Defence Minister Thandi Modise said they would be on standby.

“If and when called upon, we will be able to come in [as] we are part of the security cluster.

“Should anything arise, we will be able to defend the sovereignty of our country and the free and fair elections.

“We as the defence will not, even though the minister belongs to a political party, take sides with a party existing or emerging and that is why it is important for us to keep out of the fray but to make sure that every South African has the right to express their vote in the manner they wish,” said Modise.

Of the 4 974 voting stations in the province, 4 848 were permanent, 117 were temporal structures, nine were mobile and 35 were at various correctional centres.

There were more than 1.7 million people who have successfully applied to be special voters through Section 24 (A) of the Electoral Act nationally. Out of more than 327 000 voters in KZN, more than 127 000, who because of ill health and age, will be visited at home by IEC officials, party agents and observers on Monday and Tuesday between 9am and 5pm.

Other special voters were people who, because of commitment, have applied not to vote at stations where they were registered.

Those who were admitted to hospitals and applied as special voters would vote from their sick beds.

However, for those who did not apply to be special voters despite having various reasons not to go to stations where they are registered, would not be allowed to vote.

IEC provincial electoral officer Ntombifuthi Masinga said: “Unfortunately, if you get hospitalised today, you will not be able to vote unless you are discharged by May 29.

“If you have not applied to be visited at home on the 27th and 28th, you have unfortunately missed the boat. The same applied to Section 24(A), if you did not apply by May 17 you have missed the boat.

“Unfortunately, each process has limitations. We can only do so much and for us to be able to plan appropriately and provide the material, we need to have a cut-off point so that we know the numbers that we are providing for voting stations.”

Although taking pictures at the voting stations was prohibited, Masinga said party agents were encouraged to take pictures of the seals-secured special votes ballot boxes overnight and affirm the seals.

She said more than 5.9 million ballot papers had been printed for the province.

There were 690 voting stations with no water supply, 323 with no electricity and 229 with no toilets for voters who were expected to stand in long queues before reaching the ballot boxes.

Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the provincial government played its role in ensuring successful elections.

“Through the Department of Transport, we have launched projects worth R7 billion over the past three months to improve the provincial road network. More than 8 500km of the upgraded provincial road network is being maintained, and more than 24 000km of the rural gravel network is being attended to,” she said.

Sunday Tribune