Official: Mthethwa didn't order closures

2013-11-09 16:28
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (Picture: Sapa)

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa did not order the closure of voting stations in Bekkersdal, in the West Rand, his spokesman said on Saturday.

"[A]... tv station is currently leading with an incorrect headline that the minister has ordered the closure of two polling stations due to alleged intimidation of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) staff," Zweli Mnisi said in a statement.

"The report is misleading, sensational [and] lacks basic elements of professional journalism which involve thorough verification of facts before reporting."

Mnisi said Mthethwa was in Bekkersdal to monitor the voter registration process from a safety perspective.

"He has however not issued any order of any polling station to be closed."

Earlier eNCA reported that Mthethwa advised IEC officials to close their stations immediately due to high tension in the area.

He reportedly made the announcement during a walk-about.

A reporter said two people died after violence broke out in the area.

Mnisi said the national joint operational and intelligence structure (Natjoints) had confirmed that all polling stations in Bekkersdal were operating smoothly.

However, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said seven voting stations had been closed in Bekkersdal.

"Seven stations have temporarily closed," Gauteng IEC official Masego Sheburi said.

"[The stations] were forced to close because of activities in the vicinity of the stations. [We are]... making efforts to re-open them today still."

Five stations still open

Sheburi said five stations were still operational.

No IEC officials were injured, he said.

Local IEC area manager Enoch Ngcanga told eNCA that one official had been stabbed in the morning.

"I'm closing my two stations... We'll come back tomorrow, the situation is tense now," Ngcanga said.

According to reports, an angry mob had torched a municipal building and barricaded roads.

The mob was also reportedly intimidating community members wanting to register for the 2014 general election.

Earlier, police spokesperson Captain Jabulani Kundethe said there were three "distractions" in the morning as stations prepared to open.

"Police took control of it," he said. Kundethe did not clarify what the distractions were.

Violent protests erupted in the township outside Westonaria several weeks ago, with people demanding better service delivery and the removal of their mayor.

The protests were suspended last Sunday to allow government time to investigate residents' grievances.

At the time, residents set government buildings alight and children writing exams were taken out of school.

Residents reportedly said they would not allow the IEC into the area unless Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane apologised for comments she made during a recent visit to the area.

Last month Mokonyane apparently told protesters in Bekkersdal, who did not want her to address them, that the African National Congress did not need their "dirty votes".

Mokonyane said in a statement on Friday: "Given the situation currently and in the best interest of peace and stability, I really would want to apologise to those who may believe, or who were made to believe that I made such attacks to the residents of Bekkersdal."

Read more on:    iec  |  nathi mthethwa  |  johannesburg  |  elections 2014

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