The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has confirmed that a presiding officer in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal was arrested on Monday after allegedly stuffing marked ballots into a ballot box.
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini, briefing the media in Tshwane at the commission’s results operations centre, said the matter was being investigated by the South African Police Service (Saps).
“This incident, which did not affect voting, is a testament to the in-built safeguards in the voting process that also include an active role for party and independent candidate agents,” Mashinini said.
He said they were satisfied with the overall voting process so far despite some incidents of voting stations opening late due to community protests and a shortage of ballot paper at some stations.
Over 99% of the commission’s 23,148 voting stations opened on time at 7am and reported a strong turnout of voters from early in the morning.
More than 3.5 million voters had already voted by 12:30. The commission attributed this to the use of their new voter management devices, which replaced their old zip-zip machines.
“In general, voting is progressing well across the country. The logistical arrangements, as well as the voter management devices, are holding well, on the whole,” Mashinini said.
Mashinini said in Modimolle in Limpopo, an accredited observer was asked to leave a voting station for wearing a political party T-shirt. He said a process to withdraw the observer’s accreditation had started.
In Moretele in the North West, a member of a political party was arrested after he interrupted the voting process. In Taung, also in the North West, the IEC laid charges against a presiding officer after he opened a ballot box that had been sealed.
Other reported incidents
The IEC said 20 voting stations did not open on time in KwaZulu-Natal due to community protests. The voting stations were in Camperdown and Mdlothi, but were later opened with the help of police to allow voters to take part in the elections.
In the Eastern Cape, 19 voting stations did not open because of community protests.
In all incidents, the IEC said communities dug trenches to deny its officials and voters access to the voting stations. The commission, working with municipalities, was able to fill the trenches.
The IEC said it expected that the voting stations will be open later on Monday.
In Limpopo, hailstorm delayed the opening of voting stations in Giyani. There were also disruptions in power supply which affected voting in some parts of Limpopo and the Northern Cape.
Newzroom Afrika journo arrested
The commission also condemned the arrest of a Newzroom Afrika journalist at a voting station in Soweto, who was covering the election for the news channel.
Mashinini said the incident was regrettable.
“After the intervention of the commission the journalist has been released and an investigation into the circumstances of his arrest will be instituted,” he said.
The IEC continued to urge registered voters to make their way to their voting stations to elect for their local representatives.
Voting stations close at 9pm but the commission said voters who are at the voting station or in a queue at 9pm will be allowed to cast their ballots.
Voters were also reminded to vote only where they are registered and to bring along their ID documents.