Rubbish From Pikitup Strike Blocking Entrances to Johannesburg Voting Stations

A series of strikes conducted by casual workers of Johannesburg-based waste collection service ‘Pikitup’ has resulted in masses of trash piling up in the streets of the country’s capital. Most peculiarly, the rubbish has amassed outside voting stations, barring those seeking to vote in the country’s watershed election from entering.

What You Need to Know:

Casual workers of the waste collection service began their strikes approximately two weeks ago, with the workers, whose contracts with the company are set to end soon, demanding permanent employment.

The methods utilized by the workers included ‘downing their tools’, refusing to remove waste, and dumping collected waste along the city’s streets. Last Friday, the company deployed public order officers to remove the protesting workers from its depots; however, the strikes have continued, with the company assuring residents that while all 12 of its depots are again operational, it will take time to clear the ‘backlog’ of trash.

SCP Security, based in Randburg, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, has documented a case of trash accumulated so high outside of a voting station on Johannesburg’s Quartz Street that voters cannot enter.

This is but one instance of unrest causing delays to the voting process in the country.

For example, on Monday and Tuesday in Ekurhuleni Municipality, east of Johannesburg, many disabled and bedridden special voters were left unable to cast their votes as transport promised by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) never arrived.

Furthermore, in the Eastern Cape, over 100 voting stations were unable to open for special voters as service delivery protests, looting, and taxi strikes brought much of the province to a standstill.

One truck that was looted in uMthatha in the Eastern Cape was transporting Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) t-shirts as well as Independent Electoral Commission voting roll documents. Voting roll documents, according to the IEC, are distributed to party agents at voting stations, with the Commission stating that, “political parties are issued with voter’s rolls and during elections at all voting stations, you’ll find parties with these voter’s rolls…So it was not a matter of carelessness on the side of the IEC. It has nothing to do with the IEC. The time it [incident] happened, all our material in the Eastern Cape was already in storage facilities.”

However, this statement raises another question. If all the IEC’s material for the Eastern Cape was already in storage facilities at the time of the truck’s looting, from where did the looted documents originate?

This is a question that is unlikely to be answered, but it does provide insights into the functioning of the South African political environment.

Although unrelated, these incidents have resulted in hundreds, possibly thousands, of special voters being unable to exercise their right to vote in what has been termed South Africa’s most important election since the end of Apartheid.

The Details:

The threat of political unrest is so high during the country’s May 29th election that President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed nearly 3000 South African Defense Force personnel to bolster the country’s security services.

Of particular concern is the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the home province of disqualified uMkhonto weSizwe leader Jacob Zuma that also is a stronghold for the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The disqualification of Zuma has left the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as the ANC’s top contender in the province.

As a result, another seemingly unexplainable incident occurred in the province, with the IFP’s premier candidate for KZN, Thami Ntuli, stopped by an unmarked Ford Ranger by four armed men wearing the uniform of the South African Police’s elite National Intervention Unit (NIU) while returning from an event near Empangeni.

Ntuli and his guards were eventually released by the men who had refused to supply their identification documents.

So, What Now?

General voting in the country opened today, with polling stations open from 7 am until 9 pm. Who is to come out victorious is yet to be seen. However, what is known is that many people across the country have been unable to exercise their right to vote as a result of the state’s failure to ensure a secure voting environment as seen in the Eastern Cape, as well as the IEC’s failure to accommodate for the bedridden and disabled.

South Africa under the 30-year rule of the African National Congress has seen state enterprises, health infrastructure, and community safety crumble. It is this loss in government trust which has moved South African voters towards opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, uMkhonto weSizwe, and the Economic Freedom Fighters. However, the ANC has maintained somewhat of a support base, which has allowed it to poll, while lower than previous years, at 40%.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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