Fears for IEC staff’s safety

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Independent Newspapers

Johannesburg - The IEC has raised security fears with the police and political parties ahead of the general elections in May, chairwoman Pansy Tlakula said on Tuesday.

“We are worried about protest-hit areas and the safety of our staff,” Tlakula told reporters in Pretoria.

“We are hoping dialogue will take place and we will try to resolve the issues.”

Waves of protests have hit the country, with individuals in certain areas attacking the Independent Electoral Commission's voter registration centres over the weekend. A station in Bekkersdal, west of Johannesburg, was petrol-bombed.

Tlakula said the IEC was in contact with political parties and police to prevent violence on voting day, May 7. Seven people appeared in court in Taung, North West, on Monday for allegedly damaging election material at a registration station.

Three women and four men forced their way into a voter registration station at the Itlameng Primary School in Taung at 7.40am on Saturday. They demanded registration material from IEC officials, removed IEC banners from the school fence, and set them alight before running away.

Despite these incidents, the organisation announced the highest voter registration turnout in its history.

“In line with population trends, women comprised 51.50 percent of new registrations and men 48.50 percent,” Tlakula said.

“I am also proud to say that... young women of our country have led the way and upstaged their male counterparts.”

Just over 1.2 million people registered for the first time over the weekend, taking the total number to well over 25 million voters. Tlakula said this was 80.5 percent of the eligible voting population.

A total of 1.1 million people registered for the first time during the first registration weekend in November. With the 1.2m who registered this weekend a total of 2.3m voters would be added to the roll.

Almost three million people visited 22,263 voting stations over the weekend.

“That is 16 percent higher than the 2.5 million who visited voting stations in November,” said Tlakula.

Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number of new registrations with the Northern Cape having the lowest turnout.

Gauteng had 339 728 new voters, KwaZulu-Natal 298 652; Western Cape 136 659; Eastern Cape 130 072; Mpumalanga 97 732; Limpopo 86 835; North West 74 389; Free State 70,161; and Northern Cape 25 332.

Among the new registered voters, over a million were under the age of 30. At least 691,002 voters were aged 20 to 29, and 255,398

were aged 18 and 19.

Tlakula said the organisation was thrilled with the way South Africans, and young South Africans in particular, had come to register.

“The results show that we can lay to rest any suggestion that South Africans are apathetic or blasé about democracy.”

Registration would continue until the date for the election was proclaimed by President Jacob Zuma, she said. Zuma has set May 7 as the day for the fifth general election.

People could still register at the IEC's offices until the election date was proclaimed. The voters' roll would then close.

Sapa


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