Seventy-five thousand police officers and more than 1000 soldiers will be deployed across the country to ensure that next week’s upcoming local government elections are safe and secure. According to Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, 50 000 police officials will be deployed at 21 868 polling stations throughout the country.
Addressing a media briefing on the security services’ state of readiness for the elections, Mthethwa said he was confident that the local government elections next week Wednesday would be safe and secure. He said intelligence structures had conducted risk analysis at every polling station and the number of police officers deployed to the voting station would be determined by this analysis, the state BuaNews agency said.
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and North West have been identified as “hotspot provinces”, where police will intensify operations. Mthethwa added that 25 000 police officials will be deployed for general crime prevention duties, while reservists will also be called up to bolster forces. “Reaction groups of highly skilled and trained police officials will be on standby to react to any contingency, but there is no indication at this stage of any major threat against the elections,” the minister said.
Security preparations had began months ago and were now being intensified in the lead up to 18 May, he noted. Police are already investigating 129 cases of election-related crime, most of which relate to intimidation, National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele said.
Security arrangements for the elections will be managed through the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS). While SAPS will be the lead department, NATJOINTS will also be assisted by the SANDF, the State Security Agency, the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Home Affairs, Health, as well as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Security officials will not only provide protection at polling stations, but will also be involved in safeguarding ballot papers during transportation and are expected to help secure the counting process. Chief Electoral Officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Pansy Tlakula, also expressed confidence in the security agencies’ abilities to ensure safe elections, saying the elections should be one of the most peaceful since 1994. She said the IEC was ready for the local government elections. “At the moment we are completing the printing of the ballot papers…It’s all systems go,” Tlakula said.