An elderly man rests on a chair as voters queue at a polling station in the Umlazi township in the outskirts of Durban, on May 8, 2019 . Picture: MARCO LONGARI / AFP
An elderly man rests on a chair as voters queue at a polling station in the Umlazi township in the outskirts of Durban, on May 8, 2019 . Picture: MARCO LONGARI / AFP

Six people arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for causing election-related protests and disturbances are due to appear in court on Thursday morning.

Some of them were arrested in Bergville, in Okhahlamba municipality after a group of protesters dug holes along one of the roads in the area and barricaded it with debris and rubbish. The protest was about a lack of service delivery in the area.

Police said they had to intervene to break up the protest and safeguard the polling stations.

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Provincial police spokesperson Jay Naicker said it was a challenge for the police and Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) officials to conduct peaceful elections in the area.

“Access to the affected voting stations were later opened and IEC staff were able to do their work. But before that we had to get in special machinery to fill up those holes again,” he said.

Police said although service delivery protests took place in a number of areas across the province, the main hotspots — areas such as Manguzi, the Durban CBD and the hostels — were relatively peaceful.

Earlier on Wednesday premier Willies Mchunu criticised those who were preventing people from voting, saying their actions amounted to a “direct subversion of democracy” for which many had died or sacrificed their lives.

“There is nothing clever about not voting because voting is about setting up a government. All those who have serious problems that they think should be addressed by government, they must wait for the government to be set up. They must take part in setting up a government of their choice,” Mchunu said.

Mawethu Mosery, the IEC's acting deputy chief electoral officer, said the commission had extended voting beyond the 9pm deadline in some of the troubled areas.

The IEC maintained that elections in the province were largely peaceful, despite some of the disturbances. 

Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst and senior researcher at the Xubera Institute for Research and Development said this was a sign that KwaZulu-Natal voters were “maturing”.

“It was one of the most peaceful and tolerant elections in years and all political parties need to be commended for this. This also shows that voters are maturing.

“But this maturity was let down by the low level of professionalism of the IEC officials. There were many loopholes within the system and some people are claiming that the ink is peeling off and they were allowed to vote more than once. These things put the credibility of the outcome at risk,” he said.

However Bishop Mike Vorster, of the KwaZulu-Natal Civil Society Coalition, who also worked as an elections observer, said that although there were fewer disruptions on election day, the lead up to it was concerning.

“We cannot declare these elections entirely peaceful because there were incidents in the lead up to the elections where people were attacked and some even killed. There were a number of service delivery protests … in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This shows that people are growing impatient day by day because their expectations are not met,” Vorster said.