Election Boycott threats rife

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Residents of Zoeknog used a caterpillar to dig ditches on the dirt road they want the government to rebuild. They also barricaded the road further up with burning tyres.

Tumelo Waga Dibakwane and Adriaan de Beer

WHILE the country is reeling under service delivery protests, more and more people are threatening to either disrupt the upcoming national and provincial elections or to abstain from voting.

These threats are especially rife in the rural areas where people blatantly threaten the government to boycott the elections due to “a continued lack of service delivery”.

Residents of Zoeknog in Bushbuckridge told NEWSHORN that they were not going to vote if the government fails to build a decent road that will connect the R40 between Bushbuckridge Central Business District and Acornhoek.

They further said that they would ensure no official or vehicle from the Independent Electrical Commission (IEC) enter their communities during the election.

Disgruntled community members said this during yet another violent service delivery protest last week in which they barricaded the dirt road with burning tyres and used a caterpillar to dig ditches in the road.

This follows numerous similar protests in Mpumalanga over the past months. Last month alone, residents of Ga-Motibidi and of Schoemansdaal in Nkomazi also threatened to boycott the elections.

In recent months residents have taken to protest actions over a lack of facilities and construction of roads, in Ga-Motibidi, where they burnt down municipal offices and torching vehicles belonging to the municipality. Following a number of protests, the Department of Public Works, Road and Transport has promised to construct the road.

In Marite, Bushbuckridge, residents eventually got a new road after several protests saw schools being burnt down and vehicles destroyed.

One of the Zoeknog residents, Neo Mashile, said the government promised them a road 10 years ago, but nothing has come of its promises.

“Until today we still use a dusty bumpy road, which is difficult to drive or walk on it when it is raining. We have been patient for a long time now, and we are aware that the government only listens when there is violence. When you approach them with peace they take you for granted, now we have given them a sign that much more is coming, “said Mashile.

Mashile said if the provincial government did not attend to their grudges they would make sure that the IEC would not enter their community.

“Our vote will only work for those who are close to the politicians,” he said. We will be protesting during the election as well if the government does not tell us when the construction of the road will commence.

  • When NEWSHORN visited the area last week, some residents were pushing a hearse that was stacked in the mud on the slippery road.

To the residents it was a common occurrence that “always happens when it is raining”.

Meanwhile, Department of Public Works Road and Transport spokesperson Cyril Dlamini said plans were in the pipeline to upgrade the road.

“However, due to prevailing budgetary constraints in the current financial year, the department will carry out routine maintenance, which will include grading and gravelling of the road until funds are made available for upgrading.”