Security forces beefed up for Vuwani elections

2016-07-31 18:33
(News24 Correspondent)

The national security cluster was preparing to insulate the troubled Vuwani area in Limpopo ahead of Wednesday’s local government elections and the army will remain on stand-by to support other security agencies when the need arises.

Government was taking no chances with security details for the election, after fresh tension emerged in Vuwani this week.

Among others, leaders of the protesting communities have vowed not to vote and said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was not welcome to set up voting stations in the area.

Protesting communities have previously disrupted registrations on two voter registration weekends, making it difficult for IEC staff to work in the area.

Campaigning in the area has been limited. Political party posters and gatherings have been scarce in volatile areas.

Security concerns were escalated this week after some community leaders broke ranks with the traditional leaders who had signed a pact with government committing to end the three-month shutdown and to allow voting in the area.

While traditional leaders seemed confident with the deal, pro-Makhado leaders felt that they had been sold out.

Communities of Vuwani have been protesting against the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate it into a new municipal entity with Malamulele and Hlanganani.

They have vowed not to vote until this decision had been reversed and they have been allowed to remain part of the Makhado municipality.

Government is not taking any chances.

The national joint operation and intelligence structure will on Monday brief the media in Vuwani on the state of readiness of the state security agencies ahead of Wednesday’s election.

“The chairperson of the cluster, director-general Dr Sam Gulube, and the acting national police commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane, will do an assessment of the preparations ahead of the elections. Among other sites to be visited is a high-tech national joint operations centre,” said cluster spokesperson, Siphiwe Dlamini.

“The army does not do internal security but will be called if the need arises for a supporting role. We’re also ready to help where the IEC needs transport and for other requests where necessary.”

Meanwhile, according to the agreement signed this week, the government will within 14 days after the election kick-start the legislative processes of re-determining the outer borders of Vuwani.

While the traditional leaders seemed confident in the process, the pro-Makhado group raised trust issues. Pro-Makhado spokesperson, Nsovo Sambo, said: “We remain resolute that we are not going to vote and have always maintained this position that we won’t vote unless the demarcation decision is reversed. Our traditional leaders have signed that deal, which does not represent us... It has been imposed.”

A senior traditional leader from the Vuwani area, Chief Mmbangiseni Masia, said they have tried to persuade their communities adding that “we understand their concerns” and why they have “suspicions”. He said communities will “celebrate once the impasse has ended”.

Community leaders said a shutdown was to resume this week after businesses were allowed to open for a time to allow, among others, social grant beneficiaries to be paid.

They would not say what would happen after election day, but confirmed schooling would be allowed to resume.

More than 20 schools were torched during the violent protests that swept through the area. There had been no schooling in Vuwani since early May.

Said Sambo: “Our aim was to use the elections as a bargaining tool and we have no reason to keep the shutdown going after the elections. Schools will resume while we hope that government will come to its senses and appease the people of Vuwani.”

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