Disgruntled voters in Wesselton, Ermelo, plan to spoil their ballot papers in the upcoming general elections.
The township was the scene of violent protests from February 13 to 16 following complaints that the ANC’s Gert Sibande Regional Executive Council tried to impose candidates on its wards in the area. ”Residents of Wesselton are no longer afraid,” said ANC Ward 5 member Simphiwe Mahaye. “We survived the police using live ammunition against us last week, and we will survive spoiling the ballot papers when we go to the polls on May.”
He said the imposing of candidate lists on branches and the failure of the municipality to provide better services had forced residents to take a resolution to spoil their ballots.
Spoiling a ballot by, for example, drawing a line through it is considered to send a clearer message to government of the public’s lack of faith in its political leadership, than not voting at all.
Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, Prof. Steven Friedman, said threats to spoil ballot papers in Ermelo and other unrest areas in the country could harm the ANC unless the party addressed concerns about imposing candidates on its branches.
“A number of ANC provinces, not just Mpumalanga, have complained to Luthuli house of imposed candidate lists,” he told African Eye News Service. “Obviously the ruling party’s image will be hurt if all these constituencies decide to spoil their ballot papers, but we must also take into account that we still have three months to go before the local government elections, and what the community say today might be different from what they do on the voting day.”
The unrest in Ermelo was sparked in Ward 5 in Wesselton and rapidly spread to the rest of the township. Mahaye’s older brother, Dumisani Mahaye, was amongst 25 people arrested on Monday morning in connection with the unrest.
On Tuesday morning, community members and members of the 21 branches of the ANC in the Msukaligwa local municipality, went to the Ermelo magistrate court to support the accused, who appeared on charges of public violence and theft. Charges were withdrawn against 19 of them, three were granted R500 bail until March 22, and the remaining three were granted R200 bail until March 8.
During the unrest, one person was killed and more than 120 people were arrested. Damage to the municipality’s property was estimated at around R350 000, and included the smashing of traffic lights, road signs and the blockading of access routes to the township.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has reported that they would boycott the planned after-functions of the State of the Province Address (SOPA) in Mbombela on Friday in support of the people of Wesselton and other unrest areas.
“The DA believes that it is a moral disgrace that these lavish parties are hosted for politicians and the well connected, while so many of Mpumalanga’s people continue to live in dire poverty. Last week the community of Wesselton went on a rampage over so-called ‘poor service delivery’ yet this week the ruling elite will treat themselves like royalty,” said Anthony Benadie, provincial leader of the DA.
“These events undoubtedly cost hundreds of thousands of rands and are generally funded from either state or corporate donors,” he added.
Benadie said the DA members of the provincial legislature and their invited guests would only attend the premier’s address and the lunch served directly thereafter.