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‘Service delivery first’

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The police intervened when protesters were trying to disrupt voting. No injuries were reported and at this stage the situation is calm and voting is continuing without any disruption

SERVICE DELIVERY: A group of residents in Holpan who refused to vote during yesterdays national elections. Picture: Soraya Crowie

HOLPAN residents were adamant yesterday that they would not put a pen to the ballot papers until they have seen a massive improvement in service delivery.

The opening of the voting station at the St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Holpan was delayed after the police fired rubber bullets when they were pelted with rocks by protesters at about 8.30am yesterday.

Police spokesperson, Colonel Mohale Ramatseba, said a case of public violence and violation of the Electoral Commission Act was opened at the Windsorton police station.

“No arrests have been made yet. The police intervened when protesters were trying to disrupt voting. No injuries were reported and at this stage the situation is calm and voting is continuing without any disruption.”

Voters started entering the voting station after 9.30am, amid a heavy police presence with the SAPS tactical response team, a hippo, SAPS airwing and the K9 unit on the scene.

IEC manager, Elkin Topkin, said that electoral officials were also intimidated.

“It was decided that municipal issues should not get in the way of voters’ constitutional right to vote. The police assisted in normalising the situation. It was unfortunate that stun grenades had to be used.”

He indicated that by 5pm yesterday afternoon 120 voters out of a total of 381 registered voters had cast their votes at the Holpan voting station.

“There are about 600 people living in the Holpan area.”

Topkin added that they had requested the police to assist with a mobile unit to provide light at the Holpan voting station in the evening, as there were no lights at the church.

Community members claimed that they were staging a peaceful protest and were not preventing anyone from voting.

“A child was injured by a bullet that hit him on the chin while a 40-year-old man, who was an innocent passerby, had to be taken to hospital after he was hit in the head (by a rubber bullet).

“We never ran away so fast in all our lives to avoid being hit by the bullets.”

They stated that they had all agreed to abstain from voting.

“A petition was drawn up and signed by the majority of residents, where it was agreed that no political party nor the Independent Electoral Commission would come to Holpan on election day. The petition was signed by everyone, except the ANC.

“We are tired of empty promises. Many of us are ANC members, but we decided that, regardless of our political affiliations, we would stand together as a community in the fight for a better life. A few lights were put up at the water tower on April 27 in an attempt to convince us to vote, but it remains pitch black after the sun sets. We have been asking for years for a high-mast light to be erected in the area and we are still using pit latrines that are infested with worms.”

A meeting was held with municipal officials earlier in the week and residents were informed that they were not included in the Integrated Development Plan because they are occupying private land.

“They told us that there is nothing that can be done for us as we are not part of the service level agreement. Our shanties were soaked on Tuesday night after the rain and we need proper houses. Why must we vote if we are being treated like baboons?” residents asked.

“It makes no difference whether we vote or not because things have deteriorated since the dawn of democracy. There is not one political party that is capable of delivering on its promises. After the elections the politicians will return to their cushy jobs and extravagant houses while we are expected to die in abject poverty.”

They added that they rely on borehole water while there are also no paved roads.

“The majority of us are unemployed and this results in a high crime rate. We have resorted to stealing sheep to fill our growling stomachs. A hungry man is a dangerous man. The clinic is open one day in the week and there is no privacy as the clinic is an open air structure with no partitions.”

Community members also wanted to benefit from mining activities taking place in the area.

“No one has ever come to listen to our grievances, they don’t care about us, they only care about our votes. All our concerns remain unresolved and until they receive due attention we will continue to boycott the elections.”

Residents snubbed attempts by ANC officials who tried to convince them to cast their votes.

“We will not be bought by any political party.”

ANC member Connie Seoposengwe said she had advised voters that it was their choice to vote or not.

“I came to listen to their concerns and promised that we would come back after the elections.”

ANC secretary of the Donald Coetzee branch, Tamalo Sekgoro, stated that there was development in the area.

“Two high-mast lights will be erected in June. Temporary lights were put up at the water tower. The instigators are misleading the community and are telling people not to vote. They are the ones who stopped the developments here.”

Andries Buys, who stated that he was a members of the Communal Property Association, said that he encouraged residents to vote.

“We do not know if it is a personal agenda or if it is really service delivery. There are several groups fighting each other here.”