Voters wait in the cold after delays

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Early morning voters wait patiently in line to cast their votes at a polling station in Zandspruit informal settlement, west of Johannesburg. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - Several areas across Gauteng and the Western Cape experienced difficulties in setting up their voting stations on Wednesday morning, resulting in some disgruntled voters having to wait to make their mark.

While so far a peaceful election day, even in political hotspots such as Bekkersdal, some areas experienced a lack of ballot materials and late IEC officials.

In Springs, east of Johannesburg, voters were still waiting for their voting station to be erected at the Everest informal settlement by 8.30am.

“I woke up early to vote only to be told that there was no place to cast my vote,” said Lucas Hlongwane.

A strong contingent of police continued to keep watch in the area.

Gugulethu on the East Rand was the scene of public violence on Monday night after protesters torched a Transnet building.

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People queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Khayelitsha next to the Harry Gwala Secondary School. Picture: Henk Kruger

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Electoral officials only arrived just before 8am, escorted by six police vehicles. Voting was meant to start at 7am, and residents expressed anger at the delay.

Voting at the Manenburg community centre was also delayed as officials awaited the arrival of ballot boxes.

A long queue of residents waited in the biting cold until the voting station eventually opened its doors 45 minutes late.

The voting process also got off to a late start in Boksburg at the Freeway Park Primary school.

This was as election material, including ballot papers, scanner machines, ink and IEC stamps arrived around half an hour later than planned.

“I have been here since 6am and I expected to wait in line to vote, but planning could have been done better,” Sarah Abrahams said as she took a sip of her coffee.

“I think that it is unfair for us to wait in the cold for things that should have been here already,” said Michael Sharp.

Eyewitness News reported that voters in Lenasia, Honeydew and Benoni said stations haven't opened as of 9am as IEC officials are still waiting for the deliveries of ballot papers to be made.

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor also ran into delays while casting her vote in Claremont, as the station didn’t open on time.

Meanwhile, the IEC expressed concern about a low youth turn-out at the Development Hub voting station in Bekkersdal on Wednesday morning.

“It is a concern but it is still early days,” IEC provincial electoral officer Masego Sheburi said.

“We are hoping the youth will come out later in the day.”

Sheburi said they would have preferred people going to vote early in the morning. He praised the spirit and resilience of the elderly following the torching of the voting station tent.

“They have been here since before break of dawn even before we had a structure. They were still standing here and saying they are going to vote and would wait for as long as it takes to establish your voting station,” he said.

Sheburi said the torching of their tent put a dampener on proceedings but they were expecting a high voter turn-out in the area.

On Tuesday night, two IEC tents were set alight by angry residents, but so far on Wednesday morning, the area has seen no violence.

In Cape Town, voting at a number of polling stations in the Southern Suburbs was delayed after ID barcode scanners failed to arrive on time.

The Cape Argus got reports from irate voters in Kenilworth, Rondebosch, Claremont and Wetton.

“(The Independent Electoral Commission) implore us to vote: 'Go and vote. Go and Vote. Go and Vote,' they say,” complained Andre Shulman from Newlands, who decided to leave the queue at Grove Primary School after waiting for more than an hour for the scanners to arrive.

“It is very disappointing, but I will not allow poor service delivery to prevent me from voting today. I will go back later, hopefully the problem has been sorted out.”

Duncan Bennett had a similar experience at Claremont Primary. He was, however, more perturbed by the lack of communication from the IEC officials than he was by the shortage of scanners.

“We understand that there may be problems at some stations, but why would they be so secretive and uncommunicative?” asked Bennett.

“All that they need to do is explain to people calmly what the problem is and what is being done to fix it. When people are confused, they get agitated and angry.”

At the Wetton Scout Hall in Ward 59, Wynberg, voting was also delayed for more than 50 minutes because paper for the barcode scanning machine had been left behind at the warehouse.

At 7.40am, when there were about 130 people in the queue, an IEC official came out of the polling station and addressed voters.

“I do want to apologise. The scanner rolls are very important. The guy is on his way, he’s in Wynberg main road now,” she said.

Voters weren’t impressed. “It’s shocking!” one called out, while another said: “It’s 7.40 and you’re only telling us now.”

When the official arrived minutes later with the paper and ran into the station, he was greeted with ironic cheers.

First in to vote were Billy and Beatrix Hill of Kenilworth, who had been waiting since 6am.

“I’ve got to work later so I prefer to get it over and done with,” explained Billy, a driving instructor.

Third in line was 24-year-old Bea-Hann Brummer, who had arrived at 6.30am to cast his vote for the first time. “I’m very excited,” he said.

The youngest “voters” - at just 12 weeks old - were twin infants Bryce and Dylan Symmonds, who arrived hidden under blankets in their carry cots with their parents Andrew and Cathy, who were close to the front of the queue.

But the youngsters were fractious, and when it became clear that the station was not going to open in time, the family were allowed inside to shelter from the brisk breeze while they waited.

“I’ve just fed them, so they’re supposed to be asleep,” said Cathy.

Voting finally got under way at 7.51am.

There were also reports that some pages were missing off the voters roll, meaning that people who had registered at Wetton Scout Hall were turned away because their surnames could not be found.

In Rondebosch, the voting station opened 20 minutes late.

The IEC had not responded to queries about these delays and challenges at the time of publication.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za; kieran.legg@inl.co.za

The Star and Cape Argus


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