EFF gets cop guards in KZN

2013-12-29 10:00

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The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in KwaZulu-Natal are holding mass meetings under the watchful eye of police officers because its members fear intimidation and violence.

The EFF has accused ANC-run municipalities of denying the fledgling party access to municipal halls and other facilities in a bid to stop the fledgling party from securing a foothold in the province.

Sipho Mbatha, EFF national commissar for economic development who has been acting as convenor in the province, told City Press the party’s members had faced “intimidation’’ and been denied access to public facilities since its launch.

“There have been problems across the province regarding our right to assembly,” Mbatha said.

“In Zululand, Dannhauser in Mzinyathi and other areas, we have been denied access to community halls. This has forced us to seek alternative venues, often schools for whose facilities we have to pay,’’ Mbatha said.

Mbatha said that while there had been several confrontations with ANC members around the province, most of the “intimidation’’ had remained non-physical.

However, in Dambuza, Pietermaritzburg, two EFF members were arrested and charged with public violence – after, he claimed, they were attacked by ANC members.

“Our Fighters held a meeting in KwaDambuza and held a walkabout to engage with the community. They were attacked and beaten, one of them badly. When they went to the local police station, two of them were charged with public violence. They appeared in court on November 29. We are concerned that they as victims of assault were themselves charged,’’ Mbatha said.

But he praised the police as being generally “very helpful” in defusing tensions in several flare-ups with ANC members.

“We ensure that when we hold mass meetings we inform the SAPS in advance in order that there is a presence to maintain order and ensure that our right to assembly is respected,” Mbatha said.

“They have been very efficient thus far and understand what is required from them to execute their constitutional mandate. We do bring in security when the national leadership are here for meetings, but we do not have the resources to do this for our Fighters, so there is a level of vulnerability there.”

Mbatha said the EFF was concerned that tensions would escalate in the province as election day neared and campaigning heated up after the festive season break.

“We are concerned about the potential for problems ahead of voting. We are engaging with NGOs, peace monitoring organisations and so on to try to facilitate their presence on the ground as observers as an additional level of protection for our Fighters during the campaigning,” he said.

ANC spokesperson Senzo Mkhize said he was not aware of the incidents Mbatha had described.

Senzo Mkhize

Mkhize said similar claims had been made during the formation of Cope in 2009 when disgruntled ANC members left the party after the defeat of the then ANC president Thabo Mbeki by Jacob Zuma.

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