Nation stuns IEC with election turnout
Xolani Koyana, Cobus Coetzee, Simone Alicea, Melanie Gosling and Sapa
THERE was an extremely high turnout in yesterday’s elections, with long queues and some voters waiting four hours or more to make their crosses.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairwoman Pansy Tlakula said the high turnout was the most difficult problem the IEC had faced.
Millions queued at polling stations to cast their votes in the fifth democratic elections.
The elections were the first since the death of Nelson Mandela and the first in which an entire generation of South Africans born after apartheid were old enough to vote.
“It should be remembered that we have the highest number of voters registered in South Africa’s history – 25.3 million,” Tlakula said.
This was 2.2 million more than were registered in 2009. The IEC had increased the number of voting stations by 10 percent.
Tlakula said one of the difficulties had been people turning up to vote at stations where they were not registered, which was permitted, but which had put a strain on logistics.
IEC provincial head Courtney Sampson said running the first three hours of the election in the Western Cape was like “trying to ride a wild horse”.
He said the IEC was dealing with problems as they were reported and working to address them.
“But people vote willy-nilly across the province and that creates problems,” he said.
Analysts have said voter turnout would prove a key factor in the ANC’s election fortunes, with any significant stayaway likely to reduce the 66 percent majority it won five years ago.
In the Western Cape, where analysts predicted the DA would retain a majority, queues snaked around polling stations on the Cape Flats as was the case in 2009, when voting was extended at many stations.
Investigations by the IEC into alleged irregularities in the province found no wrongdoing by officials, according to Sampson.
He said AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele reported that she had “busted an official with ballot papers” at a voting station in Philippi, Cape Town.
Sampson said an inquiry revealed the official had legitimately been moving material from one sub-station to another.
Early reports were that Cape Town’s northern suburbs appeared to have experienced a higher voter turnout than in 2009, according to IEC officials and party agents.
There were complaints last night from politicians about the preparedness of the IEC.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said voting stations across the city had run out of ballot papers.
“We had problems in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha where ballot papers ran out. People waited four to five hours and then they left. It is very difficult then to get those voters back to the station.”
DA provincial elections manager Jaco Londt said they had “constantly reported problems with ballot papers running out at stations and then it takes really long for more ballots to arrive”.
He said voting stations in ward 23 in Atlantis were particularly troublesome.
EFF premier candidate Nazier Paulsen expressed concern about reports of several people using the same ID book to vote.
In Cape Town, a group of foreign observers from five countries toured voting stations and were impressed by the rate of voting and the “resourcefulness” of some polling station staff.
Many of Cape Town’s “born-free” voters, born after the advent of democracy in South
Africa, expressed excitement about voting for the first time, but they were clear that they expected their elected leaders to deliver after the elections. Issues that they wanted addressed included better education and investment in youth training.
Independent observer Nkosikhulule Nyembezi from the SA Council of Churches said they were concerned about lighting at voting stations after sunset.
However, Sampson said he did not foresee any problems with lighting as the IEC was supported by the City of Cape Town and Eskom.
In Samora Machel, queues at a temporary voting station in Kosovo informal settlements snaked for many metres.
At 7.40pm, Nomamfobe Ndamane, a resident of Kosovo, was still far from casting her vote. She had arrived from work just after 6pm to queue. There were more than 100 people in front of her but she was determine to stay to make her mark.
“I think it is important because we want our service delivery demands to be met. If we vote, we can move out of the informal settlements,” Ndamase said.
In Pretoria, police dispersed EFF supporters who had blocked Paul Kruger Street in the central city with vehicles late yesterday.