Elections 2024: No extra voting day, but glitches and snaking queues force IEC to get extra hands to help

Snaking queues around the block at Wierda Independent School voting station in Centurion as South Africans came out to vote for the May 29 elections. Picture: Michael Sherman/IOL

Snaking queues around the block at Wierda Independent School voting station in Centurion as South Africans came out to vote for the May 29 elections. Picture: Michael Sherman/IOL

Published May 29, 2024


The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was on Wednesday forced to rope in thousands of counting officers prematurely to help them mitigate long queues at the voting stations.

There were snaking queues 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.

IEC chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, said this was one of the measures undertaken to increase processing in busy areas, where some were claiming delays of as much as seven hours.

“The glitches have now been overcome, we will service the voters timeously. Part of the measures we implemented was to call on the counting officers who were due to join earlier to assist with dealing with the queues,” he said.

“All voters who are at the voting station will be allowed to vote if they arrive at the station before 9pm. No voter at the station will be denied their right to vote.”

Complications with VMD

There were various reports of the voter management devices glitching at numerous voting stations.

Mamabolo said an instruction had been sent to presiding officers at voting stations that were experiencing glitches to use the manual legislated procedures instead of the voter management device (VMDS).

“The issue of how prevalent is the VMD difficulties is uneven from municipality to municipality. There is no consistent performance across the municipalities,” said Mamabolo.

“Let's not forget when you use internet many variables at play. It could be factors related to the infrastructure, it could be factors related to the software, it could be bandwidth and traffic,” he said.

“There is a whole range of possibilities that could affect. What is the mitigation, the VMD, is an important part of the voting process, but it is not a legal requirement. The legal requirement remains the voters roll,” said Mamabolo.

“We have advised presiding officers to use the voters roll which is a legal requirement.”


On the security of IEC staff at voting stations, the IEC said police were expected to ensure the safety of the voters and staff.

Mamabolo said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) had assured the commission that police cannot withdraw until the work at the voting station was finished.

“They (the police) need to escort the presiding officer to the local storage site. If there are police withdrawing, it is an aberration,” said Mamabolo.

High turnout

Although yet to be confirmed, the IEC is expecting a higher or similar turnout to the 2019 elections.

“Evidently, we are in for a higher turnout than 2019 which is why the single most intention that every voter on the queue is given opportunity to record their political choice,” he said.

“We have placed additional resources to make sure everyone gets opportunity to cast their votes tonight.”

Voting stations for the 2024 general elections are officially closed. Only persons who were in the queue as at 9pm will be allowed to vote. The IEC has assured that these people would be allowed to vote deep into the night, if necessary.

They said the mechanics to add an extra voting day were too complex.

“If you extend (voting for an extra day) what do you do with the millions of ballots cast. You might be unwittingly introducing dynamics you cannot handle in an unintended fashion,” said Mamabolo.

“Hence we prefer to give everyone an opportunity to cast their ballots until voting is complete.”