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By Peter Mothiba

Azapo members picketing next to the billboard that was vandalised again in Johannesburg
Azapo members picketing next to the billboard that was vandalised again in Johannesburg

The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo)has heaped blame on the SAPS’s nonchalance regarding a second incident whereby their election billboard was vandalised in the wee hours of Friday morning.

According to the party’s national spokesperson Jabu Rakwena, the latest incident of vandalism took place in the same spot that the first incident occured in March this year, on Queen Elizabeth Bridge in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

“Azapo condemns in the strongest possible terms failure by the SAPS to make positive headways on the initial incident of vandalism of the billboard that was reported to them on 15 March this year,” wrote Rakwena in a statement sent to Tshwane Talks on Friday evening.

“This nonchalant attitude by the police provides momentum for criminals to do as they please with impunity,” he lamented.

Rakwena explained that the Queen Elizabeth Bridge precinct, where the two cases of vandalism on their billboards happened, is equipped with CCTV cameras and a security guard house, yet no one has been arrested as yet.

Rakwena bemoaned the fact that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently invited political parties to sign an election code of conduct, yet remains silent when acts of vandalism, intolerance and squeezing of political space happen under its watch.

“Other than acknowledging receipt of our complaint filed on 17 March this year, IEC has done nothing about the matter,” he said.

Rakwena emphasised that Azapo is committed to peaceful elections and would like to appeal for a spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and fair practices during political campaigning and actual elections.

“Incidents like the first and second acts of vandalism on our billboards test our restraint and provoke our members as they are the ones who dig deep down their pockets to fund our election campaign,” said Rakwena.

He called upon the police and their investigative arm to speed up the process of finding the perpetrators of the first incident of vandalism and start the process of finding culprits involved in the second incident immediately.

In the same vein, Azapo’s national organiser Pitso Hlahla told Tshwane Talks that he personally opened a case of vandalism with the Johannesburg police regarding the first incident in March and was still waiting for feedback from the police.

Hlahla said a police Warrant Officer known as Duze assured him back then that he would retrieve footage from the CCTV cameras at Queen Elizabeth Bridge and investigate, but the Warrant Officer hasn’t contacted him ever since.

“As Azapo we are worried about the attitude of the police because we feel like they are not doing their job in this regard,” he said.

“Azapo, like all other political organisations must be protected by law-enforcement officers,” he said.

Hlahla pointed out that the modus operandi for the vandalism of their election campaign is the same in that in both cases the face of the party’s president was left intact but all the messages on the billboard were destroyed.

“These acts of vandalism on our billboards are carried out by people who hate Azapo with a passion and their criminal acts are conscious and deliberate,” said Hlahla.

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