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Government says next Monday's elections will be 'safe and free'

25 October 2021 - 15:59
Ministers have assured SA that next week's elections will be free and safe. File photo.
Ministers have assured SA that next week's elections will be free and safe. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The justice, crime prevention and security cluster ministers have assured South Africans that next week's local government elections will be safe and free.

Defence minister Thandi Modise said police will be deployed at all voting stations and results centres.

“We can confidently declare today that all safety and security measures have been put in place to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections starting from October 30 and 31 from 8am to 5pm for the special votes and on November 1 for normal elections,” Modise said on Monday.

“All relevant security-aligned departments within the three spheres of government have worked tirelessly, in a continuous and co-ordinated manner, to ensure we deliver successful local government elections. As a cluster, we want to assure the public that all areas will be accessible for all citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

She said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) has put together an election security plan managed by national, provincial, district and local structures of the security cluster.

“This plan will ensure that there is sufficient police visibility in and around the voting stations around the country to prevent crime or intimidation of voters and other role players.”

Modise said the cluster has identified hotspots for violence and will deploy police accordingly.

Furthermore, police will be deployed at the provincial results centres to ensure the integrity of the finalisation of the results, she said.

The deployment of the police, the army and other law-enforcement agencies will be determined and guided by structured threat analysis and crime patterns.

“Over and above the physical deployments of SAPS officers at voting districts, reserve forces from the police are on standby to provide additional assistance should the need arise in and around the identified hotspot areas. To this end, security measures have been put in place to ensure the safety and security of voters, IEC officials, role players, equipment, resources, voting stations and the public,” she said.

Modise said SANDF members are on standby to be deployed in support of the police and the IEC should the need arise. Their key responsibility would be protecting national key points and other strategic installations, she said.

“That is very specific because if you touch those, you start tampering with the image, sovereignty and the right of this country to stand up among other nations and that becomes our business,” she said.

The intelligence co-ordinating committee has conducted a security threat assessment and assured ministers that the situation in the country is “relatively stable”, which is conducive to free and fair elections, she said.

The security threat assessment was conducted in all voting districts and resulted in the categorisation of each voting station into high, medium and low risk and the police will deploy accordingly.

Police minister Bheki Cele said four provinces — KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape — were regarded as hotspots for violence ahead of the elections. He said there were pockets of trouble in provinces such as the North West, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Cele said voting stations were placed into three categories: low, medium and high risk of violence. A big portion — about 19,000 — were on the low-risk category, with about 3,000 on medium and 270 to 300 in the high-risk category.

He said problems in Gauteng were mostly restricted to the Tshwane areas of Mamelodi, Mabopane and Atteridgeville and not the whole province. He said the police were conducting “serious” operations in those areas to prevent any violence and NatJoints was monitoring all affected areas.

Ministers reminded people who applied for ID documents more than two weeks ago to collect them, saying as of last Friday there were 370,000 uncollected IDs at home affairs offices.

The department of home affairs has extended its operating hours at 197 of 412 offices that have the capacity to process smart ID cards and passports.