IEC's former chairperson Brigalia Bam said the 2019 general elections were the most difficult of the democratic era. Picture by: S'bonelo Ngcobo

Johannesburg - As the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) grapples to audit votes cast to resolve allegations of double voting, its former chairperson Brigalia Bam said the 2019 general elections were the most difficult of the democratic era.

Bam said the country was different in 1994 as South Africans were celebrating freedom and casting their votes in the first democratic elections. 

''These are the most difficult elections ever. Those of us who did elections before would be aware that the context was different then. South Africans were celebrating freedom and had fresh memories of the past... they were not talking about the present, that is the difference,'' she said as she took a walk at the IEC national operations centre in Pretoria, accompanied by former first lady, Zanele Mbeki.

''Now its more different...that was the spirit of the people. Now its no more the celebrations. The more democracy grows, the more it becomes this is to be expected.''

Bam headed the IEC between 1999 and 2006. She was deputy to retired Judge Johann Kriegler until 1999 when he resigned as IEC chairperson in 1999. She was appointed to replace Kriegler to head the Chapter 9 institution. The former IEC chairperson is credited and respected for her smooth management of the electoral system in South Africa under her watch.

Bam said South Africa still led with electoral excellence, and was at third place in the world in this regard.

''We are doing very well...we are able to arrange logistics for 48 political parties...and I am only talking about logistics. You can go to the USA, we are better. If we had technology [electronic voting] we would be at number one across the globe. But then our country is unequal. Technology in urban areas is very advanced compared to rural areas, so we are not ready yet.''

The IEC's top officials were on Thursday locked in a meeting trying to audit votes, investigate disputes and the widespread allegations of double voting. Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo appealed for calm.

''The commission calls on political parties, the media and all South Africans to show patience, calm and restraint as the audit process to ensure confidence is undertaken,'' he told reporters during a briefing in Pretoria.

African News Agency (ANA)