Election Day has come to a dismal halt due to protests in
the small town of Holpan outside Barkley West in the Northern Cape.
As an estimated 26 million South Africans head to voting stations across the country today, sporadic disruptions have dampened the mood in certain provinces.
Dissidence in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the North West province has law enforcement agencies on high alert.
Election Day disrupted by protests
The most severe disruptions, so far, have occurred in the Northern Cape, particularly near Barkley West. Holpan, an isolated rural community almost 60 kilometres north of Kimberley, was plunged into chaos early on Wednesday morning. While a majority of residents motioned towards the humble voting station, other disgruntled community clashed with police and electoral officials.
Reports of voter intimidation summoned a strong police contingent
to the local voting station. Protesters, unwilling to back down, pelted police
officers with stones, who, in turn, opened fire with rubber bullets. Although
the protesters dispersed, protracted running battles severely disrupted voting.
Subsequently, voting in the district has been postponed indefinitely.
It’s unlikely that all residents will get an opportunity to make their mark.
What caused the Holpan protests?
Disgruntled residents claim that they are unwilling to
partake in governmental operations, citing inadequate service delivery as the
main source of their discontentment. According to some protesters, government
had failed to improve their community since the first democratic elections in
The IEC’s provincial manager, Elkin Topkins, confirmed that
police, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services
and the National Prosecuting Authority, were keeping a close watch over the
polling station. Topkins remained confident that the station would reopen.
Topkins added that any community members aiming to disrupt
the electoral process would face severe consequences. Protocol, afforded by the
Electoral Act, makes any disruptions on voting day a criminal offense.