Cape Town - DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille has hit back after being detained on Monday following a manhandling incident by police, saying she was accused of canvassing at a polling queue.
Zille, aged 70, was dragged out of the Fernwood Primary School voting station in Bethelsdorp by members of the Nelson Mandela Bay police. The video has been doing the rounds on social media platforms.
On Monday evening Zille took to her Facebook page and said her task while in Nelson Mandela Bay on Monday was to greet voters and to walk the queues, as she so often does during elections.
“Greeting voters is self-explanatory. I enjoy doing it,” she wrote.
“But when long queues start to form, the job of ‘walking the queues’ becomes more important. It involves encouraging people to stay in the queue, no matter how long it takes and how frustrated they get, so that they can cast their vote rather than go home.
“I was very careful to ensure that I did not canvas anywhere within the IEC’s boundary line.”
She visited the school at about 9.30 and found that there was a long queue “snaking around the building”. Zille walked up the queue urging voters to remain. Her post reads: “Using my authorisation form, I went into the voting station, signed a book and spoke to the Presiding Officer.”
She said the presiding officer was Kholiwe Yolanda Latola. “She identified her supervisor as a Matolindile Zingithwa, a well-known luminary of Sadtu, the vocally anti-DA Teachers’ Union.
“Their attitude showed.
“They were entirely disinterested in resolving the extreme slowness of the voting process and over the course of several interactions it was plain that they were only interested in asserting their authority rather than assisting voters,” the post read.
Zille said in her observation she could see that the slow manual-input of voters’ ID numbers into a tablet was the issue. She resorted to trying to establish how long the voting would take by timing this interaction on her cellphone’s stop-watch.
“The shortest time it took to capture an ID number was 30 seconds. The longest was 90 seconds. Multiplying the average by the number of people in the queue, I calculated that it would take about 4 – 5 hours for the people at the back of the queue to get to the front.
“Ms Latola then told me to leave the voting station.”
According to Zille after making failed attempts to resolve the issue with Latola, she left the voting station.
At about 12.30 she returned to the school only to find the queue even longer, and that the double queue system had still not been implemented.
“When I made my way to the front of the queue, two of the ANC party agents told me to stop canvassing in the queue. I told them I was not canvassing, I was urging people to stay in the queue despite their intense frustration at the inordinate delay.
“Using my written authorisation, I again entered the voting station and approached Ms Latola. She immediately snapped at me that I was canvassing in the queue. I said that was not true, and told her not to accuse me of this when she had no evidence to that effect at all.”
This was when Zille was approached by a police officer who she referred to as Warrant Officer A Botha who she claimed did not give her a chance to say a word.
“I presented my authorisation, and said I had a right to be there. With that he instructed me to leave, grabbed me and frog-marched me out of the building. I told him to let me go or I would charge him with assault.
“I tried to rip myself free of his grasp but he was very powerful and frog-marched me all the way to the gate. My colleague filmed the last segment of his violence, at which point he lunged over and grabbed her cell phone. She tried to get it back but he turned and went into the building.”
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is investigating a case of assault.