/ 10 May 2014

Residents of Alex uneasy after violent election protests

On alert: UN soldiers on patrol near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On alert: UN soldiers on patrol near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The violent protests flared up after the discovery of ballot papers in one of the shacks and the vote-rigging complaints by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters and Inkatha Freedom Party on Thursday. 

Those who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said they feared for their lives and refused to be identified. A woman staying at 10th Avenue said some ANC supporters had been beaten up for wearing party T-shirts. She said she was scared to go to the local Pan Africa Mall on Saturday morning, fearing possible violence. 

On Friday, protesters clashed with police outside the Wynberg Magistrate Court. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the mob gathered outside the court, demanding that people arrested for public violence on Thursday be released. 

Fifty-nine protesters have been arrested since the violence started on Friday and they are expected to appear in Wynberg Magistrate Court on Monday. 

A hawker, who plies her trade in Watt Street, near the court, said she had to run for her life when protesters started to burn tyres outside the court. 

“I didn’t look back after I was told by a police officer to pack my goods and go home,” said a Tsonga-speaking woman, who refused to disclose her name for fear of victimisation. She said she left some of her vegetable behind, which she couldn’t find when she returned. She said protesters threatened to burn the court, but the police acted swiftly to prevent them. 

There were rumours doing the rounds that the community centre opposite the court was also set light, but during the visit by the M&G the facility was not damaged. 

A plumber, dressed in red overall, was busy fixing water pipes at the centre’s toilet. He said the situation seemed to have calmed after more police were deployed in the township. 

On Sixth Avenue, near Madala hostel, the road was still barricaded with rocks and remains of burnt tyres. Opposite the hostel some men were spotted playing football at the patchy sports ground and watched by spectators. A police nyala was parked nearby with a few officers inside.   

During the day people were seen drinking beers at some taverns; others roamed the street. Police vehicles were visible in most parts of the township. The office used by the Independent Electoral Commission during elections was torched. 

Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Neville Malila told the M&G on Saturday evening that the situation was “calm and under control and residents were enjoying themselves after the election results”. He said: “The police will continue to maintain their presence throughout the weekend.” 

EFF leader Julius Malema has asked his members to act responsibly and stop the violence. The party has now changed its tune and has accepted the results. Police seized one firearm during an operation at one of the hostels on Friday night. 

A community centre in the township that was used by the IEC was burned by residents on Thursday night. There were people inside the centre at the time of the fire, but no injuries were reported. Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane has on Friday said SA National Defence Force troops were called in to quell the protests.   

Meanwhile the Gauteng traffic police have advised motorists “to avoid Vincent Tshabalala road, 2nd avenue, Selbourne street and roads/streets near Madala hostel at night or when it is dark.”  Second Avenue was also closed to traffic.