Durban - Apart from mischief-makers who put padlocks on two KwaZulu-Natal polling stations and a mystery trench being dug in the way of another, the elections seemed to have begun reasonably smoothly.
The IEC in KwaZulu-Natal said at 11am it was generally happy with the voting process so far in the province, except for a few glitches.
Some of the stations opened late after ink and stamps arrived late. Provincial electoral officer, Mawethu Mosery, said that in some stations the problem was that the electoral staff were not able to identify the pens used to mark the thumbs of voters.
The commission has blamed some delays on mischief-makers. In uThukela the IEC could not access two polling stations after unknown people had put padlocks at these stations.
By 10am only a station in Ntambanana had not opened. Mosery said this was because the station had become inaccessible due to a trench that had been dug at the entrance.
“When we arrived this morning we could not cross the trench.
“We still want to know who dug the trench or whether it was directed at voting station or whether it was a coincidence that it happened on voting day… I don’t know how wide the trench is but if the police could not cross that means it was quite big.”
Mosery appealed to voters to cast their votes where they were registered.
This morning the IEC received many applications from people wanting to use the Section 24A provision of the Electoral Act which allows a voter to vote at a polling station other than the one where the voter is registered. This should only be used in exceptional cases, Mosery said.
It was a new phenomenon, he said. “Most of them are in eThekwini - specifically Chatsworth - and we need to attend to it.”
He said voters needed to understand that they were creating problems if they hopped from one station to another to find shorter queues.
There was also confusion in some voting stations with voters being turned away for wearing party T-shirts. Mosery said voters had a right to wear party regalia and that only party agents and party candidates at voting stations were forbidden.
Mosery said the norm was that one ballot box must be used for both the national and provincial votes.
He was responding to questions after readers called the Daily News to question why both votes went into one box.
Some stations chose to separate the national and provincial votes as this would make it easier to count, he said, and there was nothing untoward with that arrangement.
Mosery said areas that had been plagued by protests earlier this week were peaceful this morning and voting was proceeding well in those.
The only incident was at Maphumulo where there was a delay in opening four stations because some people had gathered and were “hanging around” on the road.
This was despite a warning on Tuesday to expect disruptions, and police were put on high alert in KZN.
Allegations of electoral fraud have also surfaced in Ulundi, where ANC, IFP and NFP party agents were up in arms on Tuesday when they found that a seal of a ballot box containing special votes cast on Monday had been broken. It has been claimed that this happened when an official dragged the box on the ground, but complainants rejected this.
Party agents at the Maqhinga eNdoda voting station in Ulundi are angry about the broken ballot box seal.
It was unclear how the seal was broken, but it is believed a senior IEC official in Ulundi, who controls 15 voting districts, might have accidentally dragged the box, which caused part of the seal to break.
But when the party agents wanted to lodge a complaint they claimed they were refused forms by the presiding officer at the station.
They said the box had been properly sealed and sent away with the area manager on Monday night.
The NFP’s national working committee member, Sphamandla Ntombela, said it was shocking that a senior official could have been so careless. Although he believed the incident might genuinely have been an accident, it would be best if the official stepped down from his position, he said.
“The explanation is that he accidentally dragged the box, but how are we to know what his real intention was?”
Tutu Buthelezi, the ANC party liaison committee member in Ulundi, said the fact that the presiding officer refused to issue party agents with the complaint forms raised suspicions.
Jabulani Mlambo, an IFP election committee member, called for the immediate removal of the presiding officer.
“We are told by our party agent that she has been rude and unapproachable to the party agents.”
Mlambo said the incident was tantamount to electoral fraud.
The IEC’s outreach training officer in Ulundi, Phakamani Mabaso, said he was unaware of any objection from party agents.
But if there were any instances of electoral fraud, they would be uncovered during the counting phase tonight, Mabaso said.