Minister of Police Bheki Cele with WC Provincial Commission of Police. (Ethan Van Diemen, News24)
Police Minister Bheki Cele has urged members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to cease all talk of politics and engage in non-partisan behaviour across the country's 22 924 polling stations when South Africans vote during the general elections on Wednesday.
The minister, flanked by SAPS Western Cape commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula and Western Cape IEC head Reverend Courtney Sampson, made the remarks on Monday during an address and inspection of a 450-strong law enforcement parade, prior to their deployment to various voting stations for the duration of the election period in the Western Cape.
"The people of the Republic of South Africa, 57.8 million of them, are looking upon you. 3.1 million people of Western Cape are looking upon you to deliver the free and fair elections, as we go for elections starting from today culminating on the 8th of May, which is Wednesday," Cele told police officers.
Strongly urging police to act as neutral, non-partisan enforcers of law and order, Cele said that, on Wednesday, "yours is to protect the integrity of the election, without showing any political appreciation to the voters on that particular day. You have got nothing to do with politics whatsoever.
"You are allowed to vote and your politics on that day ends there. Don't come with politics, we don't talk politics. We don't ask people what kind of politics, we don't ask their membership, nothing."
"Yours is to look at the face of South Africa, without any form of trying to understand what is their political affiliation," he added.
The minister went on to describe the police service as being ready and prepared to ensure "safe, fair and free" elections.
"All indications tell us that the nation is ready," said Cele.
"Elections is an event that takes place almost on one day, but controls life of the people for 60 months. It's an event that will culminate between 7:00 and 21:00 on Wednesday, and those 14 hours will determine the life of 57.8 million people for the next five years. So it is important, very important that those 14 hours are kept safe and the process that comes out of that has a complete integrity, where all South Africans will say 'yes, we have come with a government of our choice'."
The number of police members present at polling stations will vary according to their identified level of risk. Six or more police officers will be present at high-risk stations, four at medium-risk and two at low-risk stations.
The Western Cape is considered a medium risk province, with 41 polling stations across the province designated high risk according to Cele. KwaZulu-Natal and the North West province are the only provinces that SAPS has designated as high-risk.
Touching on additional contingency measures in place to ensure the vote goes off without a hitch, Cele told members of the media following his address that the "president has assigned the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to be activated if and when necessary".
News24 previously reported that IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo, had said that "the time for robust campaigning has ended and now was the time for voting".
Mamabolo said that that voters should be given time and space to consider their options in peace.
The IEC has also urged communities not to engage in any civil unrest, protests or demonstrations which may impact on electoral operations.
"We have engaged with the security agencies including the South African Police Service, to ensure that no disruptions to the elections are tolerated," Mamabolo said.
Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.