South Africa's Eastern Cape seeks military support amid protests

CAPE TOWN, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The authorities in South Africa's Eastern Cape are seeking military assistance during protests by taxi operators in Mthatha, a town in the southern province of the country, local officials said on Monday.

Eastern Cape Transport Department Spokesperson Unathi Binqose said protesters have blocked main roads in the town and fired shots at authorities.

"They have used trucks to blockade the roads. Law enforcement is on the ground. We are getting reinforcement from the South African National Defense Force to try to bring the situation back to normality," Binqose told reporters.

"Unfortunately, it has affected a lot of things, including schools and airports," he said.

Earlier on Monday, five suspects were arrested after firing shots at police.

The incident happened ahead of the national and provincial elections that are scheduled to be held across the country on Wednesday.

In a statement issued later on Monday, the Eastern Cape provincial government said the protests had hampered the first day of the special votes in the areas of OR Tambo District Municipality, as key routes were affected include the N2 and R61 in Mthatha.

This disruption also affected activities at Mthatha Airport, according to the statement.

"The burning of trucks and looting of goods hampers the economic life of the province. As the provincial government, we strongly condemn the action," it said. "Law enforcement agencies have been deployed across the province to monitor the situation and ensure the safety and security of citizens."

"To salvage the situation, I have engaged both the Ministers of Police and Defense. As such, there has been an increased deployment of law enforcement agencies on the ground," said Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane in the statement.

"The deployment of the South African Defense Force has also been prioritized to hotspots in the province, including Mthatha," he added.

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