Soweto protest cleared as South Africans head to polls to vote for change

After months of legal wrangling and COVID-19, voting stations have opened across South Africa where millions will cast their ballots.

Rubble and rocks litter the Chris Hani Baragwanath Road after a protest in Soweto on 1 November 2021. Picture: Eyewitness News

NATIONAL - After months of legal wrangling and worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, voting stations have opened across the country where millions of voters will be able to cast their ballots until 9pm.

ALSO READ: ‘Previous promises haven’t been kept’ – the reality of voter apathy in SA

However, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said that anyone still in the queue at 9pm would not be turned away.

Twenty-six million voters across the country are expected to cast their vote in the local government elections.

SPORADIC PROTESTS

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Road was blocked off with tyres and rubble after an early morning protest.

Some traffic lights were also vandalised and knocked down in Dlamini.

It’s unclear what the protest was about but like many parts of Soweto, electricity was the main concern.

The disruption is strategic as it connects parts of Soweto, including Orlando, Pimville and Dlamini to what is known as ‘deep Soweto’.

Public order policing arrived to clear the rubble and to monitor the situation as residents came out of their houses to assess the damage.

READY TO VOTE FOR CHANGE

At Joubert Park in Johannesburg, voters said that electricity, corruption and houses were their biggest worries.

Resident Abram Rathebe said that he was tired of corruption, filthy streets and load reduction in his area and would be voting for change.

Meanwhile, 62-year-old Nosiphiwo Matshaya said that she wanted to vote for a party that would give her a house.

LITTLE POLICE PRESENCE

Despite assurances that there would be mass deployment of police in areas identified as hotspots, there's been no sightings of heavy police presence in troubled areas such as Mamelodi, east of Pretoria.

The township made headlines recently due to the rise of criminal syndicates in the area and the presence of a dangerous vigilante known as ‘John Wick’.

Mamelodi has over 175,000 registered voters and was deemed as one of the townships that would tip the vote in Gauteng where political parties hoped to make clean sweeps in Tshwane, among other metros, to avoid governing through coalitions.

Dozens of people have been making their way to work but some said that they hoped to make it back home in time to cast their votes in time.

NORTH WEST BEGINS VOTING

Voters have slowly begun arriving at some polling stations in the North West.

It’s mostly the elderly who have tried to beat the queues at the Bonwakgomo voting station in Chaneng, near Rustenburg.

One elderly woman said that she could not make it to the voting station during the special votes weekend but was eager to cast her vote on Monday.

Over 3,000 voters were expected to vote in the area, including African National Congress (ANC) IPC provincial convener, Suzan Dantjie.

PHOENIX VOTING BEGINS IN KZN

In Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal, IEC officials have prepared for the long day ahead at voting stations.

The area is still recovering from violent unrest in July. Dozens of people were killed there, with authorities saying that the attacks were racially motivated.

'ALTYD ANC'

In Mbekweni in Paarl in the Western Cape, IEC officials were set up and ready to go.

Many party agents could be seen setting up outside various polling stations in Paarl, as they put up gazebos to take cover from the rain.

The wet weather, though, did not prevent 62-year-old Albert Mbembe from coming out to cast his vote where he'd been waiting for more than an hour to make his mark.

Standing under an umbrella outside the Mbkewni Primary School gate, he said that he just wanted to be the first one to vote in his area.

And he knows who he’s voting for - “altyd ANC”, saying that he had never voted for another party and was not intending on doing so now.

Mbekweni falls under the Drakenstein Municipality and is run by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

A lack of electricity and dirty streets are just some of the problems he has identified to have fixed in his community.

GALLERY: SA heads to the polls in local govt elections

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.