A voter gets her thumb marked before casting her vote in Mamelodi in Wednesday's national elections. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - Political parties in KwaZulu-Natal have slammed the Electoral Commission of South Africa for having apparent weak systems to prevent the public voting twice. This was after the IEC confirmed 20 people in the province had been arrested for ‘double voting’.

It emerged on election day that some people were reportedly removing the indelible ink and potentially voting twice at different voting stations.

The IEC also revealed that the zip zap scanners that were used to authenticate a voters details, were not connected to a live system and only authenticated the registration details of a voter. The IEC said it could use analysis of data from scanners, along with affidavits to track voters who had voted twice. 

Mawethu Mosery, the acting deputy chief executive of the IEC, told reporters at the KZN regional operations centre that the commission did not expect South Africans to cheat in the elections.

“We expected South Africans to be honourable and not spend time doing criminal activities around the voting station,” he said.

The IEC could improve its technology for future elections to ensure no cheating takes place at the polls, Mawethu Mosery of the IEC concedes. The ANC, DA and IFP in KZN react to arrest of 19 people accused of double voting. Video: Sihle Mlambo

He said the IEC was reliant on the indelible ink to secure people from voting twice as the zip zap scanner could only verify legitimacy to vote and print out a sequence number, along with the voters registration details. It did not have the ability to flag repeat scans.

“(People) started finding ways to remove the ink, we couldn’t counter that and we learnt a lot. We have made arrests in Hluhluwe, Port Shepstone and Danhouser,” he said.

The most affected area was Danhauser, where 16 people were arrested at 2am on Thursday. Those 16 people, Mosery said, were able to cast their fraudulent votes. In Hluhluwe, two people tried to vote fraudulently, but were caught, and one person was also caught in Port Shepstone.

Mosery said the fraudulent votes that were cast could not be isolated as the ballot was secret and said they would be counted with the valid votes.

Pressed to ask if the IEC could improve its technology, he conceded, but explained that the zip zap scanner was not designed for a live electoral system.

“The scanner was not designed to be live. It was never designed to be live, all its mechanic was never planned around a live voters roll. Future technology we are considering around the voters roll will be able to provide us that online facility,” he said.

In a tweet on election day, the IEC said electoral voting fraud was punishable with a 10 year jail sentence.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo confirmed 19 people had been arrested for contravening the electoral act. He said there 16 people arrested in Danhauser, two in Hluhluwe and one person in Port Shepstone. 

The police were set to release a statement later on Thursday.

But opposition parties were scathing, and said the IEC should be embarrassed of the blunder.

The IFP, which appears to be on the comeback trail in KZN, said the political masterminds of the double voting campaign should be exposed, while the DA said the 2019 general elections were the worst administered elections.

IFP chief whip Naren Singh said the party was pleased there had been arrestes, and called for thorough investigations.

“It is worrying that it has happened… 25 years into our democracy and knowing we will allow Section 24, there should have been better checks and balances with regards to allowing Section 24. I don’t see why as a country we have not evolved into a system of a central database, where you go into certain centres where you want to cast a vote via Section 24, you press a button and they find you have already voted somewhere else,” said Singh.

Singh said the syndicates behind the double voting should be exposed and punished, along with those who had carried out the crime.

“We would be in support of them being punished for a crime, because it is a crime, but what we also need to know is that people become hapless victims of a crime, it could be organised by a political formation who would encourage them to do this kind of thing because I don’t think any sort of individual would want to do this on their own. We need to get those organisations that would have encouraged them to do that kind of a thing,” he said.

DA KZN leader Zwakele Mncwango was scathing, and called on the IEC to shape up. He said the party had more than 2 500 complaints with the IEC, which they still had 48 hours to consider objections. They were still giving the IEC a chance to respond.

“We are really concerned that if you can have 17 people in one municipality (voting twice), yes they have been arrested, but their votes will be counted, so then we can’t then go and say this election is free and fair. It can’t be fair when someone will gain advantage over the other through these means of double voting,” he said.

Mncwango said the IEC should be "ashamed".

“In fact this is the worst elections we have ever had before. You ask yourself, how is it possible that the IEC can come and tell the public that they can’t verify when someone has voted more than once. That is a problem and I don’t think in a democracy you want such because you want us as leaders to accept the results and keep peace in our province and our country, but if you start to doubt the process, it creates problems,” he said.

He said there was a lot at stake and called on the IEC to integrate its system for future elections and called on more money to be invested in the IEC to improve its systems.

The ANC KZN provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said the party condemned election cheating, but said the vote cheating was not widespread phenomena.

“As the ANC we do condemn anybody who would want to subvert  the processes of our country. We are convinced these were exceptional circumstances that are not widespread throughout the province, it is very minimal and should not be elevated to something of an extraordinary nature,” he said.

“We did identify some weaknesses here and there, but our view as the ANC is clear, if you want to be part of any human endeavour, there will be challenges. You can’t be part of any trajectory, perfection is reserved for those who do not do anything. We think overwhlemingly, the voting was managed very well,” he said.

Ntuli said the IEC should learn from hard lessons which may have expected this election.

Sunday Tribune