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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Mthatha taxi violence: Police and army pour personnel in ahead of elections

As election day draws closer, authorities are on high alert for the possibility of a flare-up of taxi violence and protests in Mthatha.

Police and military top brass jetted into Mthatha on Tuesday, 28 May, to oversee the deployment of law enforcement agencies and soldiers to bolster security measures to ensure a smooth election day at the polls.

National Police Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, and South African Defence Force (SANDF) chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya, arrived in the OR Tambo District Municipality’s capital in the wake of Monday’s violent taxi shutdown.

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More cops and troops deployed in Mthatha

South African Police Service (Saps) beefed up its numbers with reinforcements in the Mthatha area following the blockade of roads leading in and out of the town by disgruntled taxi operators.

Masemola and Maphwanya also paid an oversight visit to the area where the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) deployed additional police backed by the army.

On Monday afternoon, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy the army to quell the taxi violence.

“Soldiers are being deployed on the ground, to bring law and order. The deployment of the South African Defence Force has also been prioritised to hotspots in the province, including Mthatha,” the premier said at a media briefing.

“We must commend the police for the fact that they acted swiftly. When those people shoot at police, it shows you we are dealing with gangsterism now.

“It’s not really an issue of genuine complaints. Law enforcement agencies have been deployed across the province to monitor the situation and ensure safety and security of citizens,” added Mabuyane.

Furthermore, we urge the ProvJoints to tighten its oversight towards a free and fair voting in the Eastern Cape. 

WATCH: Trucks looted during taxi shutdown

The first day of special voting was also marred by looting of hijacked trucks used to blockade roads, including a truck carrying Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) T-shirts and the party’s voter’s roll for the elections.

ALSO READ: Eastern Cape elections 2024: What is happening so far on the ground?

Elections 2024: More boots on the ground in Mthatha

Police said on Tuesday afternoon that the volatile taxi strike – which claimed the lives of three people – was under control, adding that a total of 15 people were arrested and 53 firearms confiscated.

“Additional police officers have been deployed to Mthatha to reinforce law enforcement agency deployments that are in place to ensure elections take place in a safe and secure environment,” national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said.

Airport drama

Meanwhile, services at the Mthatha Airport were halted on Monday after five gun-wielding men wearing balaclavas entered the airport facility, ordering its immediate closure while threatening to burn it down.

The five men were arrested after a shootout with police, with two of them sustaining injuries.

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