Molefe Seeletsa

Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Our storage facilities were never intended to deal with a mob’ – IEC on MK party ‘vote rigging’ claims

The incident has been referred to the police for investigation.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will beef up security after unknown individuals illegally entered the premises into one of its warehouses in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) over the weekend.

The delivery of voting materials in Hammarsdale, west of Durban, was disrupted by people claiming to represent a certain political party.

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Videos of the incident circulated on social media, with some people – including uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party member, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla – alleging vote rigging.

However, according to the IEC, the boxes were part of planned logistical arrangements for the storage and distribution of ballot papers and other election material to local storage sites.

MK party ‘not involved’

IEC’s deputy chief electoral officer (CEO) for electoral operations, Masego Sheburi, stated that the commission contacted the MK party regarding the incident.

“The commission communicated to that party and that party has come back to us officially to distance itself from those persons,” he told Newzroom Afrika on Tuesday.

Sheburi confirmed that the incident has been referred to the South African Police Service (Saps) for investigation.

“To the extent that there’s video footage, we have reported the matter to Saps for investigation because that act alone is criminal whether it is perpetrators by a party supporter, party member or just an ordinary member of the public.”

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The IEC Deputy CEO revealed that a “more serious” matter was also under police investigation.

In this incident, an official was taken from their residence at night to check the bulk election material stored at the Baptist Church voting station in Chesterville.

“[The official was] forced to accompany people unbeknown to her to a facility at which we store material because they wanted to verify that the material was there and safe. So those are the two cases that we are dealing with.”

Sheburi implied that the Hammarsdale incident seemed purely coincidental, rather than a planned occurrence.

“There was presence of a party in the area and, when the material was being delivered, people saw trucks and they came on to our facility.

“We do not think it was something that was premeditated and planned ahead of time such that the [police’s crime] intelligence [division] would have picked it up.”

Security beefed up

Sheburi also stated that security measures would be heightened at facilities where election materials are stored.

“The security at our facilities was never intended to deal with a mob that is hell-bent on gaining access. It was intended to ensure relative safety [such as from a] burglary.

“Having discussed with the South African Police Service, there will be additional deployment [of officers] and we are increasing the head count of security at all our overnight facilities.”

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

The IEC deputy CEO further dismissed claims of vote rigging.

“The allegation is baseless from the video footage that I have seen. You can clearly see from that footage that ballots are still in their boxes.

“They are labeled for the voting district they will be used, and they have serial numbers so we know how many ballot papers were in circulation. Those ballot boxes had not being pre-marked because they were still in their original packaging.”