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Tardy police blamed for poll delays

2014-05-07 20:23

Mbombela - Police may have been to blame for the late start at some polling stations in Mpumalanga on Wednesday morning, provincial Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairperson Steve Ngwenya said.

Asked about delays at the Celani Primary School voting station in Bhekiswayo, near Hazyview, Ngwenya said the IEC would need to investigate before answering questions on specific voting stations, a Sapa correspondent reported.

"But what I can tell you, in most cases where we find delays, it's when our officials are [collecting]... ballot papers, ink, stamps.

"We do not allow them to take that material until such time that there are members of the SA Police Service to escort them," he told reporters in Mbombela. He said police were not always on time.

Ballot papers arrived at the Celani Primary School voting station only around 08:30, while some voters, including Bhutini Mkhonto, 41, had been queuing since before 06:00.

"I arrived here at 05:45 hoping to vote early so I could go to my car wash and do some business," Mkhonto said.

"The IEC officer told us that the ballot papers are coming from Nelspruit and would be here soon. I don't understand why they are not professional. It seems like they don't care about time.

"I know we have the day off today, but it does not mean we have to be delayed like this," he said.

Ngwenya said the elections were running smoothly throughout the province without any major incidents.

However, the IEC was alerted to a misunderstanding in Bushbuckridge, where voters were informed that they were only eligible to cast their national ballot, he said.

It was related to the re-demarcation of the area into Mpumalanga. The matter was resolved immediately after a party agent brought it to the IEC's attention.

"So people are now getting the two ballot papers that they qualify for," he said.

"Nobody was denied the second ballot. That's why I'm saying that we were fortunate enough the party agents where this thing was happening were very sharp."

Ngwenya said they immediately notified all the affected voting stations in the Bushbuckridge area.

He was happy with the voter turnout in the province. Of the 51 000 registered special voters, 65% cast their ballots on Monday and Tuesday.

Earlier, Ngwenya patiently stood for more than 30 minutes in a long queue at the voting station at Mbombela Civic Centre to cast his vote.

Ngwenya made the unexpected appearance at the voting station and none of the election staff, including the presiding officer, identified him as their boss.

"I went to one of the voting stations this morning and I found a long queue. I came across a very strict presiding officer, who told me that even if I am a senior official in this organisation I must go into the queue."

Ngwenya is registered in his home town of Ermelo, and did not register for special voting, opting to queue like other voters.

Voters who cast their ballots at polling stations where they are not registered are required to fill in a form qualifying them to vote at any other voting station in the province.

After casting his vote, Ngwenya said he had gone to the voting station unannounced because he regarded himself as any other voter.

"I had to go there like any other voter. It also helps to observe what the officials are doing. Most of the officials did not know me, and even when I was inside the polling station they did not stop what they were doing to attend to me.

"They were going about their business as usual, and I liked it. I am impressed," he said.

Read more on: iec  |  mbombela  |  elections 2014

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