Ballot paper selfie: 20 people arrested across Gauteng for flouting electoral laws



Published May 30, 2024


Police in Gauteng have arrested at least 20 people in connection with election-related crimes, as the law enforcement agents seek to maintain peace after the voting and throughout the collating of the votes.

On Wednesday night, IOL reported that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was forced to rope in thousands of counting officers to help mitigate long queues at some voting stations.

There were snaking queues late last night at metros in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape which forced the commission to request counting officers, who were due to work later, to come in earlier.

A day after the voting process, Gauteng police provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General Tommy Mthombeni said the number of people arrested for election-related crimes has increased to 20 – from the time President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the election date.

“Indeed it was a little bit challenging in terms of ensuring that the communities are, and feel safe, but we were in a position to restore order. I can confirm that since our last update, the number of the cases reported has indeed gone up and currently we are having 20 within the province,” Mthombeni said in an interview with the SABC.

“Those suspects have been arrested.”

He indicated that some of the people were arrested for taking pictures with their ballot papers, which is an offence.

“You know that the voting process was under way recently, and some of the cases, for example, you find that a particular individual casts his vote, and after casting his vote, they then takes a picture – which is prohibited.

“Some of the issues are some typical cases of intolerance by the voters where they ended up in a scuffle, and then they fight. Ultimately, one of the voters will approach the police and open a case. Those are some of the cases which we have picked up recently,” Mthombeni told the national broadcaster.

Gauteng police provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General Tommy Mthombeni. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

On the eve of the election day, the Electoral Commission of South Africa reminded voters to avoid taking pictures of their marked ballot papers.

“Voters are reminded that it is an offence to take and/or publish photographs that reveal a person’s vote on a ballot paper. The purpose of this law is to maintain the secrecy of your vote and the privacy of others. It is crucial to understand this regulation in the context of its purpose: to protect vulnerable voters from coercion.

“For instance, workers could be ordered to photograph their marked ballots in exchange for favours, or a party might demand such images in return for money or food parcels. To safeguard the integrity of our electoral process and ensure that every vote is free from undue influence, wait until you have left the voting station before sharing a selfie,” the IEC said in a message shared on social media platform X.

Police had their hands full with voters posting pictures of their marked ballots, which is against the law. Picture: Henk Kruger / Independent Newspapers

In general, Mthombeni said the voting went well across Gauteng, and the men and women in blue managed to maintain peace.

“We must indicate that we had quite some challenges within the province in terms of the long queues, especially within the universities. The latest one which we were having challenges with is Wits University, but we managed to bring in additional workforce as the law enforcement agents,” he said.

He said power outages also posed another challenge on voting day, but the situation was kept under control.

As the election results were trickling in on Thursday morning, early indications showed that former president Jacob Zuma's fledgling Umkhonto we Sizwe party was giving the ANC a bloody nose in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, standing a chance to reduce the ruling party’s majority, if not take the province.