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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Elections: Numerous challenges arise but Mzansi pushes through to cast their vote

Despite logistical hiccups, South Africans turned out in droves to vote, affirming their commitment to democracy.

Despite logistics glitches at polling stations around the country yesterday – which delayed voting by hours and forced some to remain open beyond the 9pm cut-off – South Africans did the country proud by turning out in droves to vote.

And the problems were not enough for major parties to complain that the polls were not free and fair.

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ANC second deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane was optimistic that the elections would be fair, judging by the smooth processes at the voting stations.

“The longer the queue the more comfortable we are as the ANC as that confirms that the voters are coming out in their numbers,” Mokonyane said.

African Independent Congress’s treasurer-general Margaret Arnolds said the voting process was promising.

Although it was still early days to determine if the elections were free and fair, some political parties were bound to cry at the end of the day because they would not make it to parliament, she said.

Problems encountered

Freedom Front+ head of elections Wouter Wessels was worried about technical problems surrounding the start of the voting yesterday morning.

The party received disturbing reports that some voters had to vote on a single ballot paper, when they were supposed to get three, while some had their names not found at their voting stations, he said.

This would impact negatively on the election results but he trusted the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to do a good job.

IEC deputy chief electoral officer Masego Sheburi acknowledged elections in different parts of the country got off to a rocky start, with problems experienced at many voting stations.

Voting was held up at a number of stations because of the late delivery of materials, delayed escorts by security services or protests in certain communities, he said.

There were also reports of scanners not working and issues with poorly trained IEC officials.

“In most stations, queues had formed even before the stations opened. This is testament to the enthusiasm of South Africans to record their political choices,” Sheburi said.

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He said “adequate supplies of all materials, including more than 90 million ballot papers” were available” and said “every voter will be assisted to vote”.

At some stations there were queues of up to three hours at around 7pm, but IEC officials said all voters in the line by the 9pm cut-off would be helped to vote.

At one station, staff expected to be on duty as late as midnight. Sheburi said where there were problems with scanners, the election process continued through the manual voting process.

EC staff were adequately trained over several days to ensure that they were ready for the elections, he said. “Presiding officers, deputy presiding officers and voters’ roll officers are trained over four days, which covers logistics, handling, electoral administration, administration of voting stations, as well as counting,” he said.

Rise Mzansi said it was aware of various delays and glitches, which had frustrated voters. These concerns – raised directly with the IEC – included the late delivery of voting materials, resulting in voting stations opening late; incorrect voters’ rolls, and faulty scanning devices.

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