Eastern Cape ready for elections - Xasa


Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Fikile Xasa, has assured communities and residents that joint operational plans are in place for the province to host “a free and fair” local government election next week.

Speaking at a media briefing at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss the province’s state of readiness, Xasa said the department has made significant progress in addressing problems that led to skirmishes at a number of polling stations during the voter registration period.

“An amount of R7.2-million has been set aside for the Phola Park electrification programme in Mthattha that is set to benefit 650 households, while R23.5-million has been allocated to electrify seven villages in Ntabankulu that will benefit more than 700 households,” Xasa said.

He stated that R13-million had been made available for the upgrading of road infrastructure leading to various voting stations, but also warned that safety would be ramped up at all of the province’s 4 699 voting stations come August third.

“In total, there are 52 voting stations we have identified as focus area. We will consolidate police deployment in these areas relevant to others, with the aim of delivering free and fair elections,” Xasa said without revealing the names of the areas in questions.

“Those who disrupted the operations of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) during the last voter registration week have had to face the full might of the law and even this time, we will not make any exception. We want to ensure South Africans are safe and feel safe to exercise their right to vote without fear or favour”.

Xasa however expressed concern at the likelihood of some residents not being able to vote after the Department of Home Affairs revealed that 7 149 barcoded ID’s and 15 888 Smart ID Cards were still uncollected.

“In order to assist communities with access to these documents, Home Affairs has agreed to open its offices on Saturday 30 July from 08h00-17h00, Monday 1 August 08h30-18h00,  Tuesday 2 August also from 08h30 to 18h00 and on Wednesday 3 August from 07h00-19h00”.

“We therefore encourage people to get their ID’s and exercise their right to vote. Immediately after elections, we as the Department and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) will start a process to prepare the new councils for their work as expected,” Xasa said.

Referring to the amalgamation of several municipalities in the province, including the newly formed Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality in the Sarah Baartman District, Raymond Mhlaba in Amathole, Walter Sisulu in Joe Gqabi and Enoch Mgijima in Chris Hani, Xasa said the various processes have also been finalised and are expected to be published in the government gazette soon.

Asked whether the province will have sufficient resources in dealing with the elections, the MEC said the majority will come from the province, and will be deployed at various points as per the requirements of the IEC.

He also stated that the Department had approached the Department of Education to use schools as voting stations in attempt to limit the use of tents, as well as making use of other structures such as church halls.