IEC offices forced to close after IFP, ANC tensions
The Alexandra Mulitpurpose Centre, which houses several Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and ANC offices, in Alexandra, Johannesburg, was forced closed after a heavy police presence dissipated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) supporters that gathered at the centre on Thursday.
According to reports, disgruntled IFP supporters held ANC members hostage in the township in the early hours of Thursday morning. Gauteng ANC spokesperson Nkenke Kekana told the Star newspaper: “ANC party agents were held hostage from 3am, threatened with their lives.”
On Thursday the ANC sent an SMS to media saying their officers in Alexandra were being held hostage by about 100 violent IFP supporters.
The daily said the IFP declined to comment when contacted. SABC radio news reported at 2pm that the ANC members had been released by IFP officials. The SABC said the IFP claimed its party agents saw ballot boxes in a marked ANC vehicle, which sparked the incident. Police spokesperson Brigadier Neville Malila told the South African Press Association that there had been no hostage situation, and that it was an “IEC-related matter”. The provincial IEC was not immediately available for comment.
Pascal Ramoditse, an IEC warehouse guard who witnessed the events, said he arrived at work at 5am and was followed by IFP supporters who threatened him because he was wearing an IEC shirt. But it was only at 8am that the supporters started surrounding the offices. Ramoditse said he closed the security gates when tyres and petrol were brought to the scene.
Responding to the incident, the IEC said it remained concerned for the safety of its officials in the township and would watch the situation closely, but believed police had the situation in hand.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the ANC released a statement condemning the killing of an ANC member in KwaDukuza, KwaZulu-Natal, during voting. “It is alleged that this comrade was killed while sitting at the ANC desk outside a voting station,” said the party. “We call on both the IEC and police to urgently investigate this case with a view to bringing to book those who are responsible for the killing.”
The party also cautioned against reacting in revenge for the killing. “We also call on our members and supporters to exercise restraint and allow law enforcement agencies to exercise their responsibility,” it said.
With the best – and the worst – of the elections behind us, we’ll be playing the waiting game over the next few days as IEC officials race to put the collective will of South Africans into numbers. – Additional reporting by Sapa and Verashni Pillay