Cape Town - There’s not much distinction between night and day here at the IEC’s control centre in Bellville South, where journalists and politicians mingle beneath harsh fluorescent lights of the main hall, waiting for the results to trickle in.
The adrenalin of voting day is waning. There are only so many sachets of tepid instant coffee you can handle.
But it is the calm before the storm. Within a few hours, jubilant parties will be celebrating their gains at the polls – there’s already murmurings of a DA party, although no one is saying where or when.
DA Western Cape leader Theuns Botha says: “There is no party, but for the next two weeks we will be celebrating with the communities.”
But for now, the talk is about what’s for supper, whether there’s still hot water for coffee, and whose white Toyota has parked in that poor IEC official who needs to leave in a hurry.
Those of us who got here early on Wednesday have set up camp at the media tables near the front of the hall.
The ANC has appropriated its neighbour’s cubicle. With a no-show by the enigmatic African Independent Congress, the ANC has extended its reach and set up computers at the adjacent cubicle as well.
But the ANC’s Cameron Dugmore points out that he’s astonished by the performance of this little-known party, which by 11am on Thursday had secured enough votes to get it a seat in the national parliament.
It had out-performed AgangSA by Thursday morning.
“It’s a classic case of mistaken identity,” Dugmore claims. Positioned just above the ANC on the ballot paper, it attracted crosses from voters confusing the two parties.
Despite being in a race for political domination, the representatives of the various parties are cordial, even conspiratorial with each other. Songezo Mjongile of the ANC is spotted in intense talks with the DA, while the ANC’s Cobus Grobler can be seen explaining the seat/vote ratio to the Freedom Front Plus.
It’s easy to spot the newbies as they arrive. They smell fresh, they’ve still got battery power on their smartphones, and they don’t yet know that the coffee station is tucked away behind the artificial fountain just outside the hall.
The IEC makes sure everyone is well fed with three meals. You just have to get there early, especially if there’s peppermint crisp dessert on offer.
Speaking of early arrivals - parking at the IEC’s provincial nerve centre is almost as hotly contested as the Mitchells Plain vote. On Thursday, IEC officials made pleas for CA57- something-something to remove his car from one of the access gates. The calls fell on deaf ears, and eventually the police were called to remove the car.
Reporters lucky enough to escape to the office, or to freshen up at home, are begged to bring back nuts, chocolate – anything from the outside.
For the rest of us it’s more instant coffee, more Candy Crush, more waiting…