Voting took place without incident at the KwaMashu Hostel in Durban, one of the hot spots in KwaZulu-Natal where police and the army were deployed.
KwaMashu Hostel, which falls under Durban’s ward 39, is the only one in the eThekwini Metro controlled by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). It has been the site of several politically motivated murders in recent years.
Thembalami Ngcobo, an IFP party agent situated outside the voting station, said three people had died in the ward in March, in the week leading up to the ward 39 by-election. “One was killed by the police, rather mysteriously,” she said, looking at an IFP news sheet with Nkandla as its double-page spread.
“One of the things driving the violence at that time was the fact that there was no ward councillor, so everybody was competing for a stake in a promising area where a lot of development projects are happening.”
In another interview outside the voting station, ANC member Nico Maphanga said that while waiting in the queue the previous night, an IFP-supporting youth had told him that “this ward belongs to the IFP; we should not have come because we will not win”. Maphanga said the youth in question had been warned by police during recent by-elections not to intimidate voters.
“One day, there was a prayer session here before the ward’s by-elections, he beat up a guy for wearing an ANC T-shirt. In short, we’re very grateful for the police presence here.”
About 10 police officers have been stationed at each of the six voting stations in the area.
A man who would not reveal his party affiliation said the province’s chief electoral officer, Mawethu Mosery, had said there were about 18 000 registered voters in the area, but during the March by-elections only about 3 000 people turned up to vote because of constant intimidation.
Protas Mbatha, an active ANC organiser who survived being shot 11 times in an apparent assassination attempt, said: “The situation so far isn’t that bad. There are small acts of provocation, like people going around saying the ‘ANC is for Xhosas and Mpondos’, but that’s not happening everywhere.
“There are also cars coming from other hostels to drop off people to vote. That, for me, confirms that they are trying to push up numbers again, in the same way that they did in the ward by-elections.”
In the ward by-elections many residents accused the IFP of bussing in members from other parts of Durban to vote. IFP party agents denied this.
An electoral officer at Isulabasha Hall voting station, who asked not to be named, said: “There are lots of reasons that a person could find themselves away from the voting station where they are registered to vote, including work,” the officer said. “But if they were close by we tell them to go to the right station.”
He added that attempted voting by people who were in the wrong area was not happening on such a scale that it was creating cause for suspicion.
Earlier, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe visited the hostel and said he was pleased with reports that the voting was largely proceeding normally.