By Starsky Mkhonta | 2018-09-22
Violence erupted last night at Sigwe inkhundla which resulted in the police firing several gunshots in the air to disperse a violent crowd.
In the skirmish, it is said a police vehicle was also vandalised as the scuffle intensified, with some of the people running helter skelter.
Police said no gunshots were fired but only grenades were used to help pave way as the violent crowd was blocking the entrance and exit points to the inkhundla.
It is said there was tension since the voting started as it is believed that supporters of some of the candidates were feuding.
Sigwe’s tight contest under the MP category is believed to be between former MP David ‘Cruiser’ Ngcamphalala and Phila Dlamini.
The two faced each other even in the previous elections, but Ngcamphalala won the race.
It’s however unclear as to whose supporters were the cause of the violence between the two MP candidates or whether it was also supporters of the indvuna yenkhundla candidates.
Last night’s skirmish reportedly led to several people injured, with one supposedly had a rubber bullet ‘riddling’ his chin and had to be rushed to hospital in a critical state as he was bleeding profusely.
Reports are that as the violence turned ugly, members of the Operation Support Service Unit (OSSU) had to be called.
It was then that the inkhundla became a battle ground as the crowd of people who wanted votes to be counted at the inkhundla had all the gates closed and insisted that there should be no ballot boxes taken elsewhere as the inkhundla was the only ideal place for the counting.
It was towards 2000 hours when the drama unfolded, where others who were just standing innocently were also injured.
It all started after the finishing of the voting process under Lulakeni (chiefdom) where the polling centre was the inkhundla when a group disapproved of the decision to have the counting of the ballot papers done at Lulakeni High School as they wanted it done at the inkhundla. The few police officers who for the whole day were manning the polling station were not enough to contain the situation and called for backup which also led to OSSU members arriving.
Objects and stones were flying all over the place.
The crowd was reportedly chanting ‘noma siyafa akunandaba.’
Sicelo Mngometulu, the man who was reportedly riddled by what is suspected to be a rubber bullet said he was just standing by roadside and felt something piercing through his chin and he started bleeding.
“I am not sure what hit me, but I suspect it is a rubber bullet and as you are calling, I am being rushed to hospital. All my clothes are soaked in blood,” said Mngometulu.
Presiding officer saw it coming
Meanwhile, presiding officer at the polling station Mcebo Mdluli said the violence started when they had to proceed to the school (Lulakeni High) and some of the people (not candidates) were against the idea of having the ballot papers counted at any other place than the inkhundla.
He said the plan to have the counting done at the school had long been agreed on and all the candidates approved it. He said the hall where the voting process took place was not good enough in terms of safety and security, hence the decision to count at the school.
“The hall is not a safe place for counting votes beacuse it has no windows. Again, the premises, were not properly fenced and intruders could easily make their way inside. So, it was for that reason that we agreed with the candidates that counting should be done somewhere else and the school was identified as a suitable one.
The candidates did not object to this,” said Mdluli. Mdluli said even though he could not tell what actually caused the anarchy, it was easy to tell earlier on that the tension was there but never thought it could amount to such violence. “It was easy to sense it (tension) but we did not know that it would lead to this,” said Mdluli when contacted last night. On the other hand, police mouthpiece Superintendent Phindile Vilakati while confirming that there was violence at the polling centre which necessitated the police to intervene, said she was not aware that someone was shot. She said police used hand grenades to pave way as some ‘hooligans’ were blocking the road, exit and entry points.
“I have been informed about the violence which led to the police using hand grenades to pave way as we are told there were people who were a disturbance. The agreement was that the counting must be done in the school as the hall at the inkhundla lacked security. There is no report of someone who was injured by a rubber bullet,” she said.
Meanwhile, it is said that the police also had a tough time trying to deal with the crowd which was against counting the votes at the school. On the other hand, Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer Mbonisi Bhembe said he did not get any report of anarchy at Lulakeni and Sigwe. “So far nothing has been communicated by the team tasked with the elections there. Probably they are still to inform us,” said Bhembe when called last night just before 2300 hours.
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