Voting disrupted in volatile Vuwani as residents and police clash

2019-05-08 23:50
A voting station in Bokmakierie.
A voting station in Bokmakierie.  ~ Lameez Omarjee

Vuwani in Limpopo was still on a knife's edge late on Wednesday as sporadic clashes between residents and police continued into the night. Voting was severely disrupted due to the protests.

Residents are demanding that government commit itself to demands that the area be returned under the jurisdiction of the Makhado municipality when the municipal demarcation window period opens. The area was incorporated under the newly-constituted Collins Chabane municipality after the 2016 local government elections.  

Police have indicated they would continue to maintain a heavy presence in the area as residents continued to barricade roads. Motorists were diverted away from the protests.

As night fell on Wednesday – after a day of tension and sporadic clashes, residents expressed fear of what they called a "pending, heavy-handed crackdown by police to break the shutdown".

Scores of residents boycotted the elections on Wednesday, but some made it to the voting stations to cast their ballots. 

Four voting stations were forced to close and election officials had to be escorted from the area by police.

Resident Mashudu Mavhunga said she managed to vote at a primary school.

"I'm very happy that I voted today. We need proper roads and water in our village. I hope my vote will bring change."

However, IEC provincial chairperson Nkaro Mateta said there was "heavy" intimidation of potential voters in the area. Some of the voting stations opened late because locks at the gates were changed overnight by "unknown people".

"Some people stood at the [street] corners intimidating others," Mateta said. 

The shutdown was initiated on Monday after government officials failed to address residents who had gathered at a local stadium. 

The leader of the pro-Makhado Task Team, Arnold Mulaudzi, was arrested on Monday night for alleged contravention of the Electoral Act.

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