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

This was stated on Tuesday by Independent Electoral Commission provincial electoral officer Nkaro Mateta during a media briefing at Polokwane International Airport, the provincial results centre.

Mateta was responding to a journalist’s question about the rationale for prohibiting voters from taking pictures of marked ballot papers in the voting booths. She said it was to curb undue influence being exercised 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 farmworkers,” said Mateta.

“So the only proof that these farmworkers would have to present to that farmer would be a photograph.”

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

Mateta would not divulge the farmer’s name or his preferred political party. But she said the farm was located at Groblersdal.

“This matter has been handed over to the police to investigate. I must say this is one of the biggest farms in Limpopo.”

Mateta said Limpopo was ready for the polls. There are 2.44 million registered voters, or 9.6 percent 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, Mateta said the province had 250 000 eligible first-time voters born between 1994 and 1996, but only a paltry 65 000 of the so-called born-free voters had registered.

“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.”

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.”

A total of 20 political parties would contest the elections in Limpopo. Mateta said the IEC would deploy more than 23 000 electoral staff across the province.

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The Star