Kate Bapela Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - A nerve centre that oversees the forthcoming national elections expects a low probability of an electricity blackout disrupting the much-anticipated poll.

On the state of readiness of Eskom to adequately power the election from start to finish, Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) national spokesperson Kate Bapela said: “We’ve begun negotiations with Eskom. We are in discussions. We must be functional.”

She emphasised that planning started 18 months before elections “because the planning is a heightened process”.

Bapela confirmed that when local polling stations experience any kind of disruption and the problem cannot be sorted out at that level, it would be escalated to the provincial officials of the IEC to resolve. About Eskom’s readiness, she said: “They’ll make sure they are functional.”

Eskom’s media desk pointed out that the power utility is part of the planning teams for election as part of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) “with regards to preparations for the elections”. The functionary of the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) is responsible for handling all major national and provincial disasters within South Africa.

Cogta spokesperson Musa Zondi said: “The lead department on elections is home affairs.”

Home Affairs Department spokesperson Siza Qoza said: “The department supports elections by ensuring that citizens who may have lost their identity documents can apply for temporary ID which will enable them to vote on May 8, 2019.

“Our offices will operate on the same operating hours as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the day. The IEC makes its own arrangements regarding operations and risk mitigation for the day.”

NDMC spokesperson Legadima Leso said Eskom and the IEC “from a business continuity perspective” have the “primary responsibility to ensure uninterrupted voting processes”.

On whether the power utility can give the IEC assurance that there will be no power outages at voting stations, Eskom said it “cannot give this assurance” as many stations are in municipal areas supplied by local authorities and unplanned interruptions “do happen from time to time” on networks supplying voting stations.

Leso also stressed that “planned interruptions are avoided” on voting day.

The Sunday Independent