Groblersdal - A Limpopo farmer has allegedly threatened to fire his workers if they did not provide him with proof that they had voted for his favorite political party in Wednesday’s elections.

This was revealed on Tuesday by IEC provincial electoral officer Nkaro Mateta during a media briefing held at Polokwane International Airport, the provincial results center. Mateta was responding to a journalist’s question about the rational for prohibiting voters from taking pictures of marked ballot papers in the voting booths.

She said this was aimed at curbing undue influence on voters. “Yesterday for instance we received a report from one of the farms that a farmer has threatened that if they do not vote for a particular political party he will fire those farm workers,” said Mateta. “So the only proof that these farm workers would have to present to that farmer would be a photograph,” Mateta added.

Mateta said voters caught taking pictures in voting booths would be arrested and prosecuted. “It’s a criminal offence to take a photograph in the voting booth,” she said.

Mateta would not divulge the farmer’s name and his preferred political party. But she said the farm was located in Groblersdal. “This matter has been handed over to the South African Police Services to investigate; I must say this is one of the biggest farms here in Limpopo,” said Mateta.

Provincial police spokeswoman Colonel Ronel Otto (CRT) referred media queries to her colleague Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, (CRT) who could not be reached to confirm if investigations were underway.

Mateta explained the province’s readiness for the elections. She said the province has 2.44 million registered voters. This is a 9. 6 percent segment of the 25 million voters on the national voters’ roll.

Voter apathy among first time voters was widespread in the province.

Citing Statistics SA figures, she said the province has 250 000 eligible first voters born between 1994 and 1996.

But Mateta indicated that a paltry 65 000 number of the so called “born-free voters” have registered to vote. “Percentage wise it’s about 28 percent, so this figure is very, very low and we are trying very hard to address this question of voter apathy,” said Mateta.

About 30 000 voters had registered to cast special votes. “By close of business (on Monday), Limpopo voters had cast 19 028 (special) votes in the comfort of their homes while 794 voted at the stations,” Mateta said, adding the IEC had awaited a final tally by Tuesday.

On Wednesday all 3066 voting stations will open at 7am and close at 9pm. Home Affairs offices will operate concurrently with voting stations to help voters who lost their identity books.

All national and provincial ballots have already been delivered to 25 local offices in the province with satisfactory security conditions, said Mateta.

“The bulk of the ballots were delivered in Thulamela (municipality), in particular 357 100 each for national and provincial ballot for the 281 015 registered voters, while Mookgophong (municipality) received the lowest share of 23 500 (ballot papers) for the 16 938 registered voters,” she said.

Mateta said registered voters who would be away from their home provinces would be allowed to vote in other provinces countrywide. But such voters will only be provided with a national ballot.

She said voters who vote in another voting station within their home province would be provided with national and provincial ballots.

A total of 20 political parties will contest this year’s elections in Limpopo. Mateta said the IEC will deploy over 23 000 electoral staff across the province.

Political Bureau