National 3.8.2016 03:54 pm

Vuwani residents lock IEC officials out of schools

Police and army vehicles in Vuwani, where polling stations opened late on Wednesday because some of the roads were barricaded with rubble. PIC. Chester Makana/ANA

Police and army vehicles in Vuwani, where polling stations opened late on Wednesday because some of the roads were barricaded with rubble. PIC. Chester Makana/ANA

IEC officials were stranded for hours, as the roads to the polling stations were blockaded with heavy stones and the gates were locked.

Five polling stations in Limpopo’s troubled Vuwani area were on Wednesday operating from tents that were erected by members of the South African National Defence Force (Sandf) in Limpopo, as some residents kept their vow to stay away.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has erected tents to accommodate officials locked out of voting stations in the area.

The IEC officials were stranded for hours, as the roads to the polling stations were blockaded with heavy stones and the gates were locked.

It is alleged protesting Vumani residents, who were against government’s decision to encompass their area under a new Limpopo municipality, warned schools not to allow IEC officials on to their premises.

The threat was alleged to have been accompanied with intimidation and threats that any school that opened for IEC officials may be set alight.

Angry residents who didn’t want to be the part of the new municipality have conspired to snub the election by playing soccer and other games on Wednesday.

The situation remained tense in Vyeboom, and IEC officials were waiting for voters under heavy police guards.

By 10.40am, the army and police had helped to set up more than three tents in the areas where IEC officials were locked outside.

At some stations, IEC officials had to set up operations outside the schoolyards.

There were more than eight wards in the area who were refusing to participate in the elections. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen made a desperate call for residents to come out and vote.

Speaking to media on the shoulder of Vyeboom, Van Rooyen said Vuwani residents must make use of their democratic rights and vote for the leaders of their choice.

“We think our people will come and elect leaders of their choice and champion their development agenda,” said Van Rooyen.

However, he was not optimistic that Vuwani violence would die down when poll stations closed later today.

Van Rooyen said traditional leaders has assured government they would engage and encourage their residents to participate in voting.

But on the ground, it appears traditional leaders had lost control and rule over residents who were now accusing them of betraying the community when they signed a peace deal.

Last week, community leader Nsovo Sambo reiterated that they would not participate in any election activities or vote.

At 10.50am there were no residents casting votes at some stations.

IEC’s Vhembe district co-coordinator Jeffry Radzilani said only five stations were operating outside the desired premises.

“There are five stations where our officials are operating outside the schools because there were no keys to the venue,” said Radzilani.

In most areas, locals were busy playing soccer.

Earlier on Wednesday, police spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto said there were no incidents of violence reported but maintained the area would be under surveillance until peace was restored.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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