Protests disrupt ward committee polls

[caption id="attachment_209137" align="aligncenter" width="630"] Residents protest at the Johnson Road Complex in Zwide during Wednesday's ward committee elections
Picture: Brian Witbooi[/caption]

While the ward committee elections ran relatively smoothly at most stations across Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday, voting was disrupted in Zwide and Wells Estate as residents complained about a lack of transparency in the process.

Police had to intervene as residents protested at the Johnson Road Complex in Zwide and shut the voting station after 1pm for a few hours.

The disgruntled group claimed they had not been aware that the elections were being held yesterday, accusing Ward 25 councillor Thembekile Jacobs of deliberately keeping the information from them to ensure those close to him were elected.

Ward committee elections were held in 49 wards across the Bay.

Lindi Sijaka, who spoke on behalf of the Ward 25 residents, said: “None of the four voting districts under this ward is aware of these ward committee elections today and all the nominees are the people who usually serve as volunteers for the ward councillor.”

She claimed that all nominees were members of the ANC.

The disgruntled group said they had become aware of the nomination process for ward committee candidates only on the last day of the registration process.

“Those who are close to him knew what was happening and they have been transporting people by taxis to come and vote for them,” Sijaka said.

Jacobs said those who said he had concealed the process were lying as a meeting had been called by the municipality.

ANC regional executive committee member Ayanda Simayi, who was at the venue, said the group were a disgruntled faction of the ANC.

She had to intervene when the police wanted the IEC officials to address the protesters.

“As an ANC REC member, I also have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the process,” she said.

“I had to tell the police the IEC presiding officer cannot leave the station and address the community. That is the duty of municipal officials.”

Council speaker Jonathan Lawack, whose office is in charge of ward committees, referred questions to the IEC.

IEC regional supervisor Crosby Bacela said the commotion was as a result of residents who were unhappy with the names on the ballot paper.

He said there had been disruptions at the Wells Estate community hall earlier and voting had stopped for a short period while there were negotiations with the angry residents.

The police had monitored all the hotspot areas.

While there were a few hiccups, voting had gone ahead smoothly in other areas and there had been a relatively good turnout of voters.

Bacela said there had been intensive campaigns by the IEC and municipality to inform residents about the ward committee elections.

In Helenvale, some complained about nominees’ names not appearing on the ballot paper.

The presiding officer at the Word of Light Christian Works venue in Barcelona, Melvin Blaauw, said: “We have told those who were complaining about the steps that they can follow to register a complaint.

“We are carrying on the process and everything is running smoothly.”