VUWANI – There are at least 650 election hotspot areas in South Africa which were under surveillance ahead of Wednesday’s local government election, National police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane said on Monday.
Phahlane told a media briefing in Vuwani, which has been marked by violent protests in recent months over a municipal demarcation dispute, the number of police in the area had been increased amid a tense atmosphere and the threat of renewed violence.
WATCH: Vuwani voters need not fear – Acting Police Commissioner
He said more than 1,000 police officers had been deployed to ensure that the election process ran smoothly.
Phahlane said police had taken operational control in the area.
“We have taken control of the streets of Vuwani to make sure that the people are secured. We are not going to do a risk and do a deployment below what we think is able to address the situation,” said Phahlane.
Vuwani has largely remained shutdown from business and social activities as residents continue to express their unhappiness over the Municipal Demarcation Board decision to include their area under the newly-created Malamulele municipality.
Last week, senior traditional leaders signed a peace deal with government, but this was quickly rejected by a grouping who want the area to remain as part of the Makhado municipality.
Protestors have vowed to boycott the elections.
The Independent Electoral Commission has been pleading for peace after voter registration drives in the area were disrupted.
Police said 14 voting stations are due to open on Tuesday to cater for at least 34 individuals who registered for special votes.
A total of 54 voting stations in more than 14 wards are expected to be opened on election day.
Phahlane moved to assure the surrounding communities that their safety was guaranteed and they should not be intimidated from exercise their democratic rights.
He said three community leaders, who had been championing the anti-vote campaign had been arrested and said further arrests of instigators were imminent.
READ: Peace pact signed in Vuwani.
But Phahlane refused to divulge the details of the arrests, saying that they would first satisfy themselves on investigations.
Soldiers from the South African National Defence Force have also been deployed in the area to assist as part of the security operation.
Phahlane said: “We are ready to deliver safe and secured local government local government election and we are confident.”
On the ground, a heavy visible police presence on the main roads leading to Vuwani township and sister villagers is testimony to the fears of possible violence.
Many villagers were adamant that they would not participate in Wednesday’s elections, saying the controversial decision to incorporate their areas under the new municipal entity was taken without their input or blessing.