Despite reports of some voters being left out in the cold due to irregularities at voting stations around the country, the IEC has maintained a sunny disposition about Wednesday’s polls.
“The vast majority of the country’s 22 612 voting stations reported being open on time at 07:00 and that voting was flowing smoothly,” IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini told reporters at the national results centre in Tshwane.
The IEC was encouraged that many voting stations reported strong turnouts from early in the day, with many voters already waiting to vote before the 07:00 opening.
The firing of a group of IEC officials, missing voters’ rolls, ballot box seals and scanners, and delayed station openings were some of the hiccups experienced as voting got underway.
Irregularities and protests
According to News24 readers, faulty or too few scanners created long queues at several voting stations.
Electoral staff in Ward 95 in Folweni, south of Durban, were dismissed because of irregularities during the special voting process.
In the troubled Vuwani area in Limpopo, there was a heavy police and army presence. Various voting stations could not open on time as IEC officials were locked out. Residents in the area had vowed to boycott the elections in protest against a recent municipal demarcation decision.
In Cambridge, East London, police fired rubber bullets and used teargas to disperse residents who tried to burn down the voting station in the Gcobani community hall. Residents burnt tyres and threw stones, demanding that ANC member Mbulelo Vula be their ward candidate, instead of the individual on the ballot papers.
Mashinini said “the situation was reported as calm” and voting was underway in hotspots around the country. Security forces were ensuring that voting could take place in troubled areas.
“Delays to voting were reported in a small percentage of voting stations due to a variety of circumstances, including tents being blown over by high winds overnight in the Free State and Nelson Mandela Bay metro in the Eastern Cape, and the late arrival of election staff and voting materials in a few voting stations,” he said.
Four car accidents involving IEC staff were reported on Wednesday morning. No one was seriously injured.
“We are not able to deal with specifics at this level. We have specifics at provincial offices,” chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said when asked for further details.
He said there would not be a shortage of ballot papers and that people should not panic when scanners did not work.
The IEC should be measured according to how it responded to irregularities.
“We want everything to go well… this is a question of scale and we will manage it.”
When asked about the voter turnout, he said: “We do not keep a running tally.”