Gauteng Premier David Makhura has made service delivery promises to angry residents of Naledi, Soweto, who had blocked two voting stations in the township.
Residents vowed not to participate in the local government by-elections taking place in the area and demanded that electricity be restored to their homes.
They claimed that they had been without electricity since 12 June and that they didn’t see a need to participate in the by-elections.
Makhura – who arrived dressed in ANC regalia – addressed residents outside a local Methodist church and another group outside Atamelang Primary School.
He promised residents that electricity would be restored on 27 November.
“I have spoken to Eskom officials, including [Public Enterprises] Minister Pravin Gordhan and his advisor Mandla Nkomfe, that you want electricity,” Makhura said.
He continued that he was worried about people who were complaining on by-election day.
“Our interest is to ensure that Eskom will meet its commitment and we will respect the right of those who say they will not vote today. If Eskom will not deliver on its promise, I will be very disappointed.
“They are not fighting with anyone. They don’t need police to be worried that they are going to cause violence. They assured me that there will be no violence. They are standing here saying they are not participating, and it is their democratic right,” Makhura said.
He said he was in the township, not to campaign for the ANC, but to address residents outside voting stations as the premier of the province.
“I am the premier of Gauteng. I am here to address them, whether on election day or after election day,” he said.
Makhura claimed that he was not violating the Electoral Act by addressing residents wearing party regalia outside a voting station.
“I don’t cease to be the premier of Gauteng on election day, and when the community is here saying we have a service delivery problem, I had to check with Eskom why has it has taken them so long.
“Eskom has committed to fix their substation. I am walking this journey with the community. This is not a campaign and I am clear on that. They have told me that I must not tell (encourage) them to vote,” said Makhura.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was also in the area and encouraged residents to exercise their right to vote.
“We are here after being told that community members have blocked roads and closed voting stations. We addressed them and explained to them that we are aware that they don’t have electricity and encouraged them to vote.
“If they don’t vote, their problem will remain because of people who don’t deliver services. We have opened the voting station and assisted in setting things up. The voting station is functional and ready to accommodate voters,” said Nldozi.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said Makhura was allowed to address people, as long as he was doing it outside a voting station.
“Unless if he has called a rally outside a voting station or encouraging people to vote, [then] it would be a contravention (of the Electoral Act), only if he was addressing a formal rally.”
As for the protesters who blocked entry into the voting station venues, Bapela said it was a criminal offence.
“As much as protesting is a right, it is also a right to vote. Everyone has a right vote. No one is allowed to prevent people from voting, it is a criminal offence. Police can also escort people who are afraid to vote,” she said.
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