Afraid of the vote?

2014-02-16 14:00

The general elections are around the corner but many South Africans in some of the most hotly contested areas have not registered to vote.

The lowest voter registration turnout in the country was recorded in ward 25 of the fiery Madibeng municipality in North West.

Madibeng residents took to the streets last month to protest against poor service delivery – and the results were fatal.

Residents, who were largely protesting against water shortages and cut-offs, clashed with police, resulting in the deaths of four people.

A number of officials, among them the municipal manager, were placed on special leave pending an investigation after the shootings.

Only a quarter of the ward’s population of just more than 20?000 people registered to vote. Political analyst Theo Venter said the 25% registration turnout in the ward could also indicate high levels of

intimidation that kept those who wanted to register away from Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) centres.

But according to the IEC’s voter registration statistics, Madibeng as a whole had close to the national average voter turnout of 80%. Another area the governing ANC and opposition DA

have fiercely contested since mid-2012 is the Tlokwe municipality. Just 3?400 people registered to vote out of a population of close to 10?000 eligible voters in Tlokwe’s ward 2.

This is the third-worst voter registration figure in the country, with a measly 34% voter registration turnout.

Venter said: “Low registration in Tlokwe may point to voter fatigue. Voters were actively mobilised for most of 2013 and low turnout can be a response to being overpoliticised.

“People not voting presents a skewed image of politics and illustrates how strong the ANC’s image or trademark or tradition is, and it is a reflection on the absence of an opposition party that would present an alternative, despite the [Economic Freedom Fighters] working hard in that area,” he said.

The pattern continues in the Free State, which was another protest hot spot last year.

Eight people died during service-delivery protests in Sasolburg, which has now only recorded a 45% registration turnout. With 12 wards, Mpumalanga registered the lowest number of voters, followed closely by North West.

In third place was the Western Cape with a less than 50% registration turnout. The province has eight wards, including Ceres, Malmesbury and Robertson – all predominantly farm areas.

North West and Mpumalanga are the two provinces with some of the poorest registration results and also provinces with very poor service-delivery records. “The wards with low registration are all in service-delivery hot spots or are overpoliticised areas,” said Venter.

But the IEC is still positive about the general voter registration turnout. Commission spokesperson Kate Bapela said: “There could be several reasons for this, such as the voting age population being lower than anticipated [as per Census 2011], or people did not get the opportunity to register.

“The IEC will conduct targeted communication registration in voting districts that experienced disruptions last weekend due to strike and protest activities, as well as weather-related disruptions.”

By contrast, two of the ANC’s strongholds, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, posted above average voter registration figures – 85% and 83% respectively.

President Jacob Zuma’s home town, Nkandla, posted an ­impressive 91.7% registration turnout. In Polokwane, the home turf of ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and EFF commander in chief Julius

Malema, 67% of eligible voters registered. The IEC says it’s not done with its registration drive yet and eligible voters who have not yet registered can do so at their local municipal electoral offices during office hours until the election date is gazetted.

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