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Johannesburg - With less than 100 hours until South Africa’s fifth democratic elections kick off, the countdown has begun.
Political parties are pulling out all the stops to woo last-minute voters, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is geared up to receive its 25.3 million voters and over 20 000 law-enforcement officers have been deployed across the country, with the SA National Defence Force on stand-by.
On Saturday, the ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster visited Bekkersdal in Gauteng to assure residents that voting will proceed smoothly.
The township – which has been engulfed in service delivery protests since last year – is one of several areas countrywide identified as hot spots ahead of the elections.
The ministers conducted a walk-about in the township on Saturday, following a meeting with leaders of the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association.
The security cluster ministers’ visit to Bekkersdal is the seventh in a series of visits across KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West.
Other areas that have been identified are Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape, Malumelele in Limpopo, Madibeng and Rustenburg in the North West and Wembezi in KwaZulu-Natal.
But on Saturday, the ministers told a media briefing that the other areas identified as hot spots have stabilised ahead of voting, thanks to visits by cabinet’s security cluster over the past two weeks.
It was all systems go for Wednesday, they said.
“There’s no kind of event we’ll be unable to preside over. We have no nightmares,” said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Earlier this week police launched their National Joint Operational Centre in Pretoria, which will be operational until all votes have been counted and the results have been announced.
Provincial Joint Operational Centres will be fully functional in all nine provinces.
The declared results are expected on Saturday morning.
Yesterday IEC chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said everything was in place and he was looking forward to voting day on Wednesday.
“We have done everything we needed to do,” he said on Saturday.
By on Saturday afternoon ballots and ballot boxes for over 380 000 special votes were sent to their destinations.
On Monday, the rest of the voting station materials will be moved, said Moepya on Saturday.
Uniprint, a division of Times Media Group, Joburg-based Ren Form and Bidvest Paperplus are among the companies who will share the R20m tender to produce and deliver 58 million ballot papers to the IEC’s nine provincial warehouses.
Ren Form also printed ballot papers for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 2011 elections after being subcontracted by IT billionaire Robert Gumede’s Four Rivers Trading 21.
Preparations for the elections have, however, taken place against a backdrop of a protracted court battle to remove IEC chairperson advocate Pansy Tlakula following a probe by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
In a statement released on Saturday, Tlakula said she welcomed the electoral court’s decision to put the matter aside until June.
“While I am relieved, I should reiterate that with less than a week to go before the May 7 polls, this is not a time to celebrate, but to continue with what I have been doing in the past months since we started preparing for the 2014 general elections – to lead my team through another credible, free and fair election in our country,” she said.
The same auditing firm that produced a damning report on Tlakula – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – will audit the results after Wednesday’s elections.
Auditing of results will start at 10pm after voting and counting of votes is complete, according to the IEC.
The IEC is paying PwC between R550 and R2 000 an hour for each auditor depending on seniority, up to R2 000 for calls made during the elections and a daily per diem of R120.
The fees are based on the Auditor-General’s rates.
The Business Innovation Group, which counts the Presidency and the SABC among its clients, has designed the R1.2m election results audit system.