The DA, EFF and the ANC held rallies this weekend in Johannesburg in a final push to lure voters ahead of Wednesday’s general elections.
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) confirmed it was doing final checks and Police Minister Bheki Cele promised to deploy police to voting stations and extra security in volatile areas.
The IEC is working around the clock to ensure operations run smoothly when more than 26million registered voters are expected to make their way to the polls.
The IEC confirmed it was ready for the elections and announced that 52 election observing organisations - including 11 international ones - were accredited to monitor the polling process and verify that the elections were free and fair.
Up to 52 million ballot papers have been printed and are securely stored. They will be delivered to the 23 000 polling stations and 1 000 tents across the country early on Wednesday.
The IEC said up to 26.7 million citizens were registered to vote, with 774000 having applied to cast special votes tomorrow and Tuesday.
The bulk of voters are expected to make their way to their local polling stations between 7am and 9pm on Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday.
The IEC’s deputy chief electoral officer, Mawethu Mosery, gave an undertaking to deliver the results by Saturday, May 11, despite there being many more parties on the ballot in this election than in the previous five, which means counting could take longer.
Several hotspots in different parts of the country have been hit by violent protests in the last few weeks and Cele said they had plans in place to deal with any disruptions.
Political analysts believe this will be one of the toughest elections the ANC has faced, with the latest polls from Ipsos, MarkData and the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) pointing to the party’s diminishing popularity.
Ipsos predicted the ANC would win with 61%, the DA 19%, the EFF 12% and the IFP 3% of the vote.
MarkData had the ANC’s share of the votes at 59% while the IRR predicted the ANC’s support would decline to 49.5%, with the DA getting 21.3% and the EFF getting 14.9%.
Added to the challenge of violent protests, the IEC said it had to come up with a plan to carry out voting in communities ravaged by floods in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
Heavy rains have washed away bridges and destroyed other infrastructure.
The commission said yesterday ballot papers had already been sent to these areas.
“Ballot papers have been delivered to local offices and trucks were escorted by police to safeguard them against angry protesters.
“They will be transported from local offices to voting stations by police escort. Two areas have reported difficulty with road access to voting stations,” said the IEC.
Police would assist in the Nkovukeni area in Manguzi Municipality where the only way to reach a polling booth was by crossing a hippo-infested lake.
Cele said the SAPS would deploy more than 51000 officers across the country to secure voting stations.
The minister singled out KZN and North West provinces as hotspots and said extra security measures would be put in place in those regions.
Cele’s spokesperson Reneilwe Serero said yesterday between six and eight police officers would be deployed per voting station in high-risk areas and low-risk areas would have fewer officers.
Cele also said certain areas in the North West where Premier Job Mokgoro’s motorcade was recently attacked by protesters, and another town where a minister was also blocked had been declared high-risk.
He said in Limpopo six schools had refused to sign leases with the IEC and the army had been forced to set up tents for people to vote.
IEC commissioner Nomsa Masuku warned it would not allow people to disrupt or prevent anyone from casting their ballots. “This was against the law.”
Cele said the SAPS would prioritise cases of people arrested during violent protests on Wednesday.
He emphasised there would not be special courts for this, but the cases will be prioritised.
According to a Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster statement, the army is ready for any eventuality with safety and security measures in place for free and fair elections.
According to Defenceweb, the SANDF will work with all the cluster departments to ensure elections “happen in a safe and secure environment”.
The statement said “around 3504 reservists nationwide will be deployed”.