The IEC said it was satisfied overall with the first day of special voting for the 2019 national and provincial elections. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Durban - The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said on Monday night it was satisfied overall with the first day of special voting for the 2019 national and provincial elections. 

"Special voting was undertaken throughout the country at both voting stations and through home visits. Where special voting was not completed today, activities will continue tomorrow," said the commission via an emailed statement. 

Reports showed that with the exception of a handful of minor incidents, special voting proceeded as planned, it said. 

“As a test run of our planning and preparations today was a very solid and encouraging start. It has given us the opportunity to put our plans, systems and logistics to the test and see where we may need to focus attention on Wednesday,” said chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo.

Among the incidents that marred the first day were reports of voting stations in Ginsberg, outside King William’s Town, and Idutywa in the Eastern Cape where election staff and voters were prevented from conducting voting due to community unrest.

The matter had been reported to the South African Police Services to investigate. 

"It is a criminal offence to interfere with the duties of election officials and/or to prevent voters from voting," said the statement. 

In another incident, a pack of three unused, unassembled ballot boxes was discovered on the side of a road in Tzaneen, Limpopo. The commission investigated the incident and found that the boxes were lost off the back of a vehicle during transport to a voting station, it said. 

“Fortunately there is no risk to the elections as the boxes were unused and there are many safeguards to protect the integrity of the elections. However, such incidents are highly regrettable as they serve to undermine the faith of the public and stakeholders in the process,” Mamabolo said.

An internal case of negligence and bringing the IEC into disrepute was being investigated against the official concerned, who had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Other incidents reported included pens that did not write effectively – especially early in the morning when it was cooler and they were first used. This sparked calls on social media for voters to bring their own pens and not to trust the IEC “pencils”.

“This is another form of disinformation and fake news. We use black pens to mark ballot papers and the ballots are then inserted by the voter into sealed ballot boxes. All of this – and the ultimate removal and counting of cast ballots – is done in front of party agents and observers so there is no chance for ballots to be interfered with,” said Mamabolo.

The issue of voting with false nails had also done the rounds on social media, said Mamabolo. 

“Unfortunately these are recurring themes of disinformation which have cropped up around each election. It is not true that you can’t vote with fake nails. The indelible ink is effective and it is one of a number of safeguards to protect the integrity of the results.”

It was a criminal offence to vote twice or vote if not registered, said the statement. Such actions could lead to criminal prosecution and if convicted, a 10 year jail term for the perpetrator. 

African News Agency (ANA)