Massive security force deployment ahead of May 8 polls

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PRETORIA, May 2 – Police Minister Bheki Cele on Thursday outlined a massive deployment of state security machinery and officers, particularly to the “hotspot” provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and North West, as a pre-stabilisation mechanism ahead of the May 8 general elections in South Africa.

“We wish all South Africans well as they exercise their constitutional right to vote for the party of their choice in the sixth general election. Two provinces have been mentioned as high risk  – that is North West and KZN [KwaZulu-Natal]. Already, there has been a pre-deployment there … we have sent some platoons and sections in those specific areas trying to make sure there is a pre-stabilisation in those hotspot areas,” Cele told journalists in Pretoria on Thursday.

He was flanked by other ministers from government’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster – State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba and Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele. National police commissioner Khehla Sitole was also in attendance.

Cele said the security forces are already taking charge in the volatile areas to eliminate the risks on voting day.

“Already, we are on the ground with the forces. Platoons and sections have been sent in those areas. There are more in KZN and the North West. We have 3 000 reservists and five other groupings that are waiting to be deployed where it could be necessary on that particular day. All [voting] stations, a low-risk area they get two members, the medium risk gets four members, high risk will get six members but that doesn’t mean should any situation prevail we are not able to increase those figures. We are ready for that,” said Cele emphatically.

Throughout the press briefing on Thursday, the government sought to assure all South Africans that there won’t be any no-go areas on voting day. Election time in South Africa is characterized by an upsurge of service delivery protests, with some communities threatening that voting would not take place in their regions until their grievances are addressed.

“We want to reassure the public that all areas will be accessible for all citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. On the day of the elections, 22 924 voting stations will be opened for all citizens to vote. There will be nine results centres in each province and the TSWABAC [Pretoria Show Grounds] designated for the national results. Members of the SAPS will enhance visibility and prevent any form of criminal activity in and around voting stations and the results centres,” said Cele.

“Police officers will monitor all forms of protestation or shutdowns to ensure that no individual’s constitutional right to vote will be infringed. Police officers will escort presiding officers who will visit homes of those people who will participate in special votes on the 6th and 7th May.”

A total of 51 306 officers will be deployed to voting stations on May 8.

Cele said the department of correctional services, which houses a population of 170 000 inmates, is mandated by the electoral laws to ensure that every inmate who is eligible to vote, casts his/her ballot.

“The department will be deploying voting officials in the 243 correctional facilities around the country to allow all registered inmates, with relevant identification documents, to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” he said.

– African News Agency (ANA)