Glebelands Hostel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Glebelands Hostel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

When voting was delayed at the volatile Glebelands Hostel  in Umlazi, south of Durban, it uncharacteristically had nothing to do with violence in the notorious area. 

But Siyabonga Ngema, the Electoral Commission of SA’s (c's)  presiding officer for the voting station, said they had to act fast to avert a crisis.

“We had a huge problem. We didn’t have all the voting materials. We didn’t have scanners, stamps, ballot papers. It was  technical problems and I quickly contacted the (IEC) area manager. These materials duly arrived at 8:30am,” he said.

Glebelands Hostel was one of the areas flagged by the IEC as a hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal.  Since 2014, 106 people have been killed at the hostel in the intra-ANC branch disputes involving the allocation of beds and rooms. 

Those killed include Zodwa Sibiya, an ANC councillor in eThekwini Municipality, who was gunned down at the hostel shortly before the 2016 local government elections. Two men were shot and killed there three months ago.

Due to the imminent threat of violence, police maintained a strong presence in the area.

Despite this, voters were excited and eager as they waited in the long queues. One was 50-year-old Ntombi Cele, a machinist at the nearby textile factory.

“I am here to vote for a better life, a better future for my children,” she said. “I'm excited to get this opportunity. I hope that my vote will change things, we will be able to get RDP houses, better roads and schools for our children.”

Her sentiments were shared by hawker Nomvuyiso Bhenswana.

“I wish the violence in this hostel would come to an end. We also want a better life. We want government to fix the floors, the windows, to renovate the hostel. When it rains water come in and destroy our appliances, furniture and clothing,” Bhenswana said.

Across town, at the KwaMashu Hostel, which also gained notoriety for political violence, voting went off much smoother.

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Heavily armed police were clearly visible there too  as residents  queued to cast their votes. Police minister Bheki Cele visited the hostel on Wednesday morning to assess the area. 

Sphiwe Ndlovu, the IEC’s presiding officer, said that whatever fears  he and fellow voting officers had were allayed by the presence of the police and the camaraderie between the competing political parties.

“So far I can say everything is going smoothly and there has been no incident. I have been an electoral officer here fore more than eight years I can say I have never seen such peaceful elections,” he said.