Polokwane – The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has notched up its presence around the Old Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane, Limpopo, ahead of the January 8 rally billed for Saturday.
The force has set up small army tents around the stadium. Working alongside on Thursday, were members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), National Traffic Police and the Presidential Protection Unit.
When Independent Media landed at the stadium around 2pm on Thursday, a group of what appeared to be security officials in private clothes was seen moving around the stadium, conducting an intensive security assessment of the entire (inside and outside) venue.
One of them was heard saying: "No private cars should be allowed near the stadium; all people should be brought in by buses."
The presence of the SANDF to secure an ANC rally is not new as it was a similar case in January 2020 in Kimberly when troops were stationed all over the town, manning key entry and exit points. That led to an uproar as some opposition parties questioned why the army had left the barracks.
Video: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)
Efforts to get either Brigadier Mafi Mgobhozi or Siphiwe Dlamini (both SANDF spokespersons) to explain the presence of the army failed as their phones were off at the time of compiling this report.
The strong presence of the army in Polokwane coincides with security fears around Ramaphosa and the ANC rally itself. Earlier this week, a faceless group within the ANC circulated a poster saying it would stop the event and force Ramaphosa to step down.
It also coincides with a comment made by Ramaphosa himself earlier where he said his vigilant security team recently noticed that one of the tyres of the presidential plane was not in good enough a condition to allow it to fly and had to be fixed.
He revealed that while trying to make the point that unfit leaders should not be elected to lead the ANC.
On Thursday, members of the media were left scrambling trying to find out why exactly Ramaphosa walked out of a gathering of cadres forum organised by the ANC Women's League at Lebowakgomo Civic Centre.
Officially, it was claimed that he decided to leave the event because the organisers said Covid-19 regulations were violated. This was while some media reports and others within the ANC claimed that there was a security threat, hence the decision.
The national spokesperson of the ANC, Pule Mabe, denied that there was security risk, saying the decision to leave was purely informed by Covid-19 regulations.
"No, there was no security threat at all. I will send you our statement; it was more of Covid-19 issues where numbers were oversubscribed," Mabe told Independent Media when asked to clarify the matter.
The secretary-general of the women's league, Matuba Mekgoe, said: "It is upon the advice that we got from the security and from the leadership that the event at Lebowakgomo was cancelled and Ramaphosa had to leave abruptly.“