Police have ordered an unprecedented security crackdown in Bloemfontein ahead of the ANC’s 53rd national elective conference, and have denied entry to several men carrying firearms. ANC officials were forced to comply on Saturday with the stiff new security measures at the conference’s two major venues, and the resulting disruption played havoc with the party’s planned arrangements. By NEWSFIRE reporters.
It is not yet known exactly what prompted the security crackdown, although it may have something to do with potential disruption from some local Free State delegates after Friday’s court decision to invalidate Free State’s provincial elective conference.
At the University of the Free State, which is hosting the conference, there is a heavy police presence at all entrances and access is limited, with officials particularly strict on controlling media access. South Africa’s two most elite police units, the Tactical Response Team and the Special Task Force, were also spotted on campus.
By Saturday afternoon, security officials manning one entrance to the university told NewsFire that several people had been caught attempting to bring in firearms and denied entry. They officials would not divulge any further details.
Vehicles hoping to gain access to the university grounds, or to the College of Technology where delegates are registering, were unexpectedly re-directed from the university gates towards the nearby Tempe military base. Even VIP vehicles were not exempt, and a long line of cars snaked up the hill towards the base’s heavily-policed vehicle testing facility.
Sniffer dogs checked vehicles for explosives, and police officers performed thorough inspections. Once they passed the checks, the vehicles – including busses, media trucks and even ambulances – were escorted by police to the venue for which they had received accreditation.
The process may have been thorough, but it was also slow. Most drivers were kept waiting for two hours or more.
The delays had a knock-on effect on the conference’s anticipated schedule, forcing the postponement of meetings and press conferences.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu explained that the strict security measures were necessary. “For any of our event we ensure that anybody is safeguarded,” he told journalists. “We do not leave the security of the conference to chance.” He added, however, that the party was not anticipating serious trouble.
“We are not expecting any war. We are not expecting any blood on the floor.”
Mthembu said that the party planned to streamline the vehicle registration process to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s long delays. DM
Photo by Greg Nicolson.
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