A small group of people gathered at Firethorn Primary School in Soweto, Johannesburg to register on Saturday. The station was not ready on time, but after a short wait, the first few people entered. Photo: ANA/ Timothy Bernard

Pretoria - Almost all voting stations around the country were reported open and operational from 8 am on Saturday morning as the voter registration and address update campaign got underway, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said.

Over 73 000 election officials were reported in place in some 22 600 voting stations to register new voters and to allow already registered voters to check and update their address details in preparation for the 2019 national and provincial elections, the IEC said in a statement.

Eligible and registered voters were reported to be making their way to their voting stations in response to the call to update the voters’ roll.

"The electoral commission would like to express its appreciation to political leaders and parties, the media, and other stakeholders who have raised awareness of the registration weekend and the importance of a reliable, accurate, and up-to-date voters’ roll for free and fair elections," the commission said.

"Sadly, in a handful of isolated areas a small number of voting stations around the country were unable to open on time or were forced to close shortly after opening due to a range of incidents."

Photo: ANA/ Timothy Bernard

The most common of these was due to community protests using the high profile of the voter registration activities to draw attention to their grievances, and in some instances prevented staff and voters from reaching the voting stations or conducting registrations.

Some of the affected areas included Katlehong in Gauteng, Nthabankulu in the Eastern Cape, parts of Wonderkop in the North West, Tongaat in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal, QwaQwa and Harrismith in the Free State, and Dunoon in Cape Town. 

Provincial election staff were working closely with community leaders and security forces in all these areas to ensure voting stations opened as soon as possible to allow citizens to enjoy their constitutional right to register as voters.

Other incidents reported during Saturday's deployment included two accidents involving election personnel on their way to open voting stations. In both incidents the staff members were hospitalised, one with minor injuries and one with more serious injuries. The commission wished them a speedy recovery.

In most of the country the weather was reported to be conducive to high participation and turnout with little rain reported and mostly cloudy and cool weather in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The commission urged all registered voters to use the opportunity to check their address details, and all unregistered eligible voters to visit their voting station to register. Voters visiting their voting station should take a copy of their bar-coded ID book, smart card ID, or temporary ID certificate. Voting stations would be open from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, the IEC said.

African News Agency/ANA