AT LEAST 650 election hotspot areas have been placed under surveillance across the country ahead of Wednesday’s local government elections, said acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane.
Phahlane told a media briefing on Monday in Vuwani, Limpopo, that they have beefed up police presence in the troubled area amid the threats of violence.
He said thousands of police officers have been deployed to ensure that the elections ran smoothly.
The police have taken control of local streets and were satisfied with the situation after imposing movement restrictions, according to the country’s top cop.
“We have taken control of the streets of Vuwani to make sure that the people are secured. We are not going to risk and do a deployment below what we think is able to address the situation,’ said Phahlane.
Vuwani remains shut down for business and social activities after residents went on a rampage earlier this year over the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate the area into the newly established Malamulele Municipality.
They wanted Vuwani to remain part of the Makhado municipality.
Last week, senior traditional leaders signed a peace deal with the government but it was rejected by the pro-Makhado group.
They said the traditional leaders signed a deal without their blessing and therefore weren’t bound by its terms and conditions.
Disgruntled residents have been protesting since April after they lost a high court application to have the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision set aside.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of voters since Vuwani protesters disrupted its voter registration campaign in the area.
Police said 14 voting stations were due to open on Tuesday to cater for at least 1000 individuals who had registered for special votes in the area.
Phahlane has assured the public that their safety was guaranteed.
He said that they should not be intimidated by people who wanted to deny them their right to vote.
Phahlane said three Vuwani community leaders, who were threatening to disrupt the elections, have been arrested and that further arrests were eminent.
The top cop, however, refused to divulge more details about the suspects, saying that their identities would be made public once they have been charged and police investigations were completed.
Soldiers have also been deployed in the area to assist their police counterparts in ensuring that election were incident free.
Assuring the public, Phahlane added: ” We are ready to deliver safe and secured local government local government elections and we are confident.”
On the streets of Vuwani, heavy police presence and escorts on the main roads leading to the township and the nearby villagers bore testimony to the rising tension.
Villagers were adamant that they wouldn’t participate in the elections, saying they didn’t support the decision to incorporate their area into the new municipality.
Police and army helicopters hovered in the area monitoring the troubled area as special votes failed to take place in some areas.
Police officers were seen clearing rocks and rubbles from the streets after protesting residents again blockaded the area overnight.
Earlier, community leader Nsovo Sambo said they would not vote but would support the campaign for the re-opening of the schools on Friday.
More than 58 000 pupils, including matriculants, have been affected by the almost three-month protest.