The Independent Electoral Commissions’ voting stations in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, had to be temporarily closed on Saturday after IEC personnel were intimidated by residents.
The unrest started on Friday when residents of Ward 12 were allegedly encouraged by SCA Ward Councilors to march to the municipal offices and hand over a memorandum to the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille. Protestors claim that SCA Councilors promised them that Zille would receive their memorandum and pay a visit to Kayamandi on Saturday. The memorandum contained housing and basic infrastructure demands.
The premier was scheduled to address students of Stellenbosch University on Friday. According to the premiers’ spokesperson, Zakhele Mbhele, no plans were made for Zille to meet with the residents of Kayamandi to discuss their concerns or to receive a memorandum.
The unrest continued on Saturday morning when protesters of Ward 12 disrupted the voter registration process at IEC voting stations. Faith Matebe, a resident of Kayamandi, says protesters “marched with traditional weapons and threw stones at IEC staff and those who wished to register.”
The police were called upon to contain the situation while voting stations in Wards 12, 14 and 15 had to be provisionally closed to ensure the safety of IEC staff and residents. Three people were allegedly arrested and no injuries were reported.
Residents of Ward 12 were hardest hit by the fire that swept through Kayamandi in 2013. Most residents of Ward 12 are still left without electricity and live in informal housing.
Protesters say they will not register to vote or vote if they are not provided with adequate housing and electricity and that they are “gatvol” of fruitless meetings with the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements.
A local ANC activist, Tandy Makisi, says “…the problem is that many people who took part in the protest are not aware that the IEC is not affiliated with any political party and that the IEC cannot help them.”
All IEC voting stations in Kayamandi were reopened on Sunday without any major disruptions; but many residents expressed their fears to register at the voting stations. A resident of Kayamandi, who wishes to remain anonymous, says many people in her area were too afraid to register at the IEC voting stations over the weekend. She says she “…hope[s] the IEC staff can attend to [them] at [their] homes to register before the election.”
Individuals who are not yet registered for the 2014 National and Provincial Elections that will take place on 7 May, have until the official proclamation of the election date to register. Eligible voters can take their green barcoded ID to their nearest IEC office to register.