First day of special votes goes well everywhere – except Eastern Cape

Despite smooth special voting, IEC worries about OR Tambo region's violence, assures security, and urges turnout.

Despite reporting progress on the first day of special votes yesterday, with 22 626 ballots processed, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), expressed concern about the impact of the taxi-related violence in the OR Tambo region of the Eastern Cape.

Addressing the media at the IEC results operations centre, IEC deputy chief electoral officer Masego Shiburi said the commission was able to open “the majority of voting stations in the Eastern Cape in the face of protests, which had nothing to do with elections”.

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“Of the 435 voting stations, which experienced problems in the morning, only 107 remain closed due to these external factors,” Shiburi said. He promised an intervention by the IEC and SA Police Service.

Officials visit homes

Urging South Africans to vote tomorrow, Shiburi said a total of 624 593 voters would be visited by IEC officials over the two days set aside for special votes, ending today.

“The special voting process is subject to all the security and integrity protocols of normal voting, including scrutiny by party agents and observers,” he added.

The IEC, he said, has accredited 170 organisations to monitor the local polls, with 18 representing international bodies. After the first day of special votes yesterday, IEC officials at some stations said, so far, so good.

“There have been no issues,” said one. “It’s been seamless. We expect volumes to pick up as election day approaches. But we are ready.”

Eligible citizens, including the frail and senior citizens, were visited at home by election officials to enable them to cast their votes, while others joined short queues at polling stations.

There are three ballots in this election: the compensatory national paper is for parties competing for seats in the National Assembly, while the regional ballot includes independent candidates and political parties for a separate 200 seats.

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This gives independents a fighting chance, although not many have made themselves available for election. The national ballot is a big page, with the regional ballot a novella that extends well beyond the surface area of voting booths.

The provincial ballot contains fewer independents and is not as long. Democratic Alliance party agent and local ward councillor in Ekurhuleni Simon Lapping said business was brisk yesterday at the three voting stations in his district.

Alongside other party representatives he spent the day exercising oversight as well as transporting voters unable to get to the voting stations themselves.

Parties gather at stations

Later in the day, the ANC also gathered at some voting stations and the uMkhonto weSizwe party had representation at a Kempton Park voting station, a 30 year old agent who returned to SA to support former president Jacob Zuma after a decade in the US.

Voters were all smiles, and not just because of the short queues.

“This is our chance to really make a difference and get the ANC out for good,” one voter told The Citizen. Another said those who would not be voting, thinking it’s a statement of protest, have it all wrong.

“They can blame themselves when the NHI [National Health Insurance] comes in and nobody can get to see a doctor for months, and we’ll have them to blame for the potholes and the load shedding which, of course, will be back later this week.”

A domestic worker, there to aid a special voter, said she wants “the people who keep lying to us” out of government, although she thought that ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba was a handsome man who might be trusted.