With just a few days left before this year's elections kickoff, the IEC officially opened its National Results Operation Centre in Pretoria. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - The Independent Electoral Commission(IEC) said a record number of political parties contesting the National general elections next week have presented new challenges.

Sy Mamabolo, the IEC’s chief electoral officer was speaking at the official opening of the National Operations Centre in Tshwane on Tuesday.

Mamabolo said the challenges created by the record number of political parties include longer ballot papers, more ballot boxes, higher transport and printing costs and more party agents at voting stations.

“This gargantuan increase in the number of parties contesting has also required a slight revision to our traditional layout here at the National Results Centre to accommodate nearly twice the number of political parties than previous elections,” said Mamabolo.

Another challenge that has tested the commission added Mamabolo is the collection of addresses for voters over the past three years.

“We are pleased to indicate that we now have full addresses for almost 85 percent of the voters’ roll and hope to further improve this by insisting that consistent with the legal prescript, any voter without an address must provide one before being furnished a ballot paper,” he said.

Mamabolo said despite the challenges, electoral democracy continues to flourish. 

The elections kick-started with South African citizens living or working abroad casting their votes on Saturday at foreign missions around the world.

“The cast ballots are now in the process of being securely transported back to South Africa where they will be counted before party representatives.

“The result of this count will be included in the tally for the national ballot after Election Day,” said Mamabolo. 

IEC chairperson, Glen Mashinini said this past weekend South Africa celebrated the 25th anniversary of the country’s first inclusive, regular, credible, transparent, free and fair elections.

“Next week South Africans from every corner of our country and from every walk of life will return to the polls for the sixth time since 1994 to elect their chosen representatives for the national assembly and provincial legislatures,” said Mashinini.   

Mashinini called on those who have been organising and participating in civic demonstrations as “part of their Constitutional rights” to respect the election process.

“Compatriots, as a nation we all have a patriotic duty to protect and defend our elections and our democracy for this and future generations,” he said.

The chairman also called on all South Africans to “come out in their millions next Wednesday to cast their votes.”

According to the IEC out 770 000 special voters to cast their votes across the country on Monday and Tuesday, 70 672 are from KZN.

“The special voting process involves using a double envelope system in which the marked ballot of the voter is placed in an unmarked envelope which is then placed inside a second envelope which contains the voters’ ID,” said the IEC.

The IEC further explained that special votes are transported and stored securely overnight at municipal warehouses and other secure locations including local police stations on 6-7 May before being transported back to the voting station on Election Day for inclusion in the count.

“The overnight security facilities are vetted by the State Security Agency to ensure adequate security arrangements,” said the IEC.  

THE MERCURY