ANC downplays Bekkersdal violence

The ruling party says there's no evidence that a person carrying a gun in a photo is a party member.

FILE: Angry residents in Bekkersdal protest against poor service delivery on 23 October 2013. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress (ANC) on Friday downplayed the recent violence in Bekkersdal.

The ruling party is also refusing to take responsibility for a photograph of person dressed in ANC regalia holding a firearm behind his back.

The image of the armed man has emerged along with claims from residents that the ANC is coercing them into voting for the ruling party.

But the ANC says there's no evidence that the person in the photo is a party member.

The ANC's door-to-door election campaign on Thursday was disrupted by a violent protest.

Angry residents took to the streets barricading roads with burning tyres, rocks and rubble.

School pupils, who were still dressed in uniforms, were apparently at the forefront of the protests.

They allegedly forced their classrooms to participate in the demonstration.

Six people were arrested for public violence.

The Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association says the community is confused after Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane told them the party doesn't need their "dirty votes".

The premier then visited the area a few months later to beg them for their support in the upcoming polls.

Mokonyane has since apologised to the residents but community representative Thabang Wesi says they want a proper apology from the ANC.

"The ANC tried to forcefully come to the township. They had guns and were shooting randomly."

Wesi says in a democracy, no one can be forced to vote for a particular party out of fear.

But the ANC's Nkenke Kekana denied the community is fighting with the ANC.

"We will still gather more and more votes from Bekkersdal. We shouldn't confuse the protests in Bekkersdal to be an anti-ANC protest."

The latest incident has raised fresh questions about the security during campaign work by parties ahead of the elections on 7 May.