Umbilo residents who turned up to make their mark after sunset had to vote in the dark on election day. Picture: Wendy Jasson Da Costa

Durban - Umbilo residents who turned up to make their mark after sunset had to vote in the dark on election day.

The Umbilo area in Durban lost power around midday on Wednesday.

By late afternoon, with power not restored, election officials scrambled to buy candles at local supermarkets.

The voting station was closed for about an hour in the late afternoon before it was later reopened.

Freelance journalist Wendy Jasson De Costa said she had to use a torch on her cellphone to cast her vote at the Carrington Primary School voting station.

Umbilo has a number of voting stations, including Port Natal, which may also be affected.

“I had to use the torch on my phone because the candles were not bright enough to see what was on the ballot paper,” she said.

There was a sizable queue at the school's hall as voters waited for officials to get candles.

The voting station’s presiding officer, who is responsible for all operations at the voting station, would not reveal his identity or comment.

The voting station's scanner also stopped functioning.

An IEC official at the Carrington Primary School voting station works by candlelight. Picture: Wendy Jasson Da Costa

A policeman deployed at the voting centre tried to keep the voters calm.

"Guys just be patient we are trying to get the angles right so that shadows from the candles don't fall across the ballot papers and then you can see the paper," he said.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa procedures state that ballots are to be counted at the voting station in view of party agents and elections observers. The ballot box is then sealed before it was transported to a warehouse for storage, while the results slip is taken to the KZN elections operations centre.

The results for the station are also displayed outside the voting station.

IEC KZN spokesperson Thabani Ngwira said all voting stations were provided with battery powered LED lights by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

“Lights were provided with the voting material,” he said.

The lights are apparently about 30cm in width and did not make a difference.

Ngwira said vote counting would continue at the station.

“I don't know if they don't make a difference. What can be done, because we have supplied them with lighting and they have decided it is not effective and they are using candles. If it is not effective for them there is nothing we can do, we have provided lighting,” he said.

He said the voting and the counting of votes, which is to commence immediately after 9pm when voting stations close, would carry on.

When asked if the 30cm LED lights were sufficient for counting purposes, he said: “I have never seen them, I don't know if they are sufficient or insufficient."

Sunday Tribune