Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Pretoria - With South Africa's 22 924 voting stations set to open over the next three days for special voting and election day, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on Sunday appealed for a reduction in political activities to allow space for voting to take place peacefully.

At all times any hindrance or obstructions in the work of the commission in exercising its duties was prohibited. The Electoral Act also specifically prohibited political meetings, marches, demonstrations, or any other political event on voting day. It also prohibited strikes and lockouts in the public transport and telecommunications sectors, the IEC said in a statement.

“While strictly speaking this applies only to Wednesday 8 May, voting will be taking place at voting stations and through home visits on Monday and Tuesday when we expect over 770 000 voters to cast their ballots,” chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said in the statement.

“The time for robust campaigning has ended. Now is the time for voting. Let’s give voters the time and space to consider their options and make their choices this week in an atmosphere of peaceful reflection,” he said.

The commission urged communities not to engage in any civil unrest, protests, or demonstrations which may impact on electoral operations.

“We have engaged with the security agencies including the South African Police Service to ensure that no disruptions to the elections are tolerated,” Mamabolo said.

The commission also reminded employers that the right of citizens to vote was constitutionally protected and paramount.

“The declaration of election day as a public holiday is to ensure every voter has the opportunity to exercise their right to vote and this takes priority over any business activities this week,” Mamabolo said.

This was especially important for workers in the mining, agriculture, retail, and tourism industries. “It is an offence to prevent access to voting stations by voters, political parties, election officials, and observers,” he warned.

The commission also cautioned voters against disinformation and fake news reports designed to undermine the smooth election process after rumours surfaced this weekend that state pension payments would be delayed this week.

“The commission has confirmed with the Minister for Social Development Ms Susan Shabangu that pension payments will be made as scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.”

The commission warned voters not to be duped by disinformation including about voting hours. “Special voting takes place on Monday and Tuesday from 9am to 5pm, and voting on election day 8 May takes place from 7am to 9pm.”

The commission had received a number of complaints of electoral misconduct. The allegations ranged from:
- minor improprieties such as the use of unsavoury epithets to blatant calls to violence;
- provocation and prankishness to outright acts of disinformation and the destruction of posters of opponents;
- offering inducements to vote for a party to threats against the rights of workers to vote; and
- false statements to puerile name calling.

“Rhetoric has often undermined reasonableness and rationality in the high-stakes contest for political power. Leaders of political parties, industry, and civil society are reminded that our democracy is underpinned by our collective political maturity and our adherence to and promotion of the laws in place to ensure free and fair elections,” the IEC said.

If proven, allegations of misconduct amounted to serious violations of the Electoral Act and the Code of Conduct. The consequences were dire for those found guilty of electoral offences with stiff penalties.

Voters should take with them their green barcoded ID documents, a smartcard ID, or a valid temporary ID certificate to vote. No other form of ID was accepted, the commission said.

African News Agency/ANA