Elections end smoothly

2011-05-18 20:11
Johannesburg - Blood, sweat and crocodiles featured in municipal elections on Wednesday, which ended as smoothly as it started with only a few hiccups reported in some spots.

South Africa's fourth post-apartheid local government elections officially ended when voting stations closed at 19:00, with no presiding officers requesting extended voting hours.

Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson Kate Bapela said if a voter was in line before 19:00, then he or she would still be able to vote, even if it was after 19:00.

"Everybody who is in the queue by 19:00 will be assisted," she said.

The IEC said throughout the day that voting was going smoothly overall, with all but one of the 20 859 voting stations open by 09:30.


Glitches occurred at some places, with the main issues being too few or faulty ID scanners, voting stations not opening on time, reports of intimidation and the burning down of an election tent at a ward outside Bloemfontein in the Free State.

All eyes were on the Democratic Alliance-led Cape Town and the closely contested Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, while the Inkatha Freedom Party battled it out with its breakaway party, the National Freedom Party, in Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal.

The latter was one of the "problem areas", where three people - two of the IFP and one of the NFP - were arrested for allegedly intimidating each other, while five people were arrested for allegedly attacking an African National Congress ward candidate in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal.

President Jacob Zuma voted in his home village Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal, confident that the ANC would "surprise many".

"I am very optimistic because we have made serious advances," said Zuma.

A run for its money

DA leader Helen Zille cast her vote early at Rondebosch in Cape Town, before visiting Nelson Mandela Bay, where some analysts believe the DA could give the ANC a run for its money.

Zille laid a complaint with the IEC after her visit, saying she had spotted some voters being given only one ballot paper, instead of two.

"It was highly suspicious," said Zille, urging voters to let her know if it had happened to them.

"When I pointed this out to the IEC they got a terrible fright and said it shouldn't be like this," said Zille.

One ballot paper is to vote for a political party, while the second ballot paper is to vote for a ward councillor.

Borrowed ballots

In the Free State, two presiding officers were fired after the one borrowed ballot papers from his friend at a neighbouring voting station.

Free State IEC head Chris Mepha said the presiding officer of a voting station in the Dihlabeng Municipality (Bethlehem) ran out of ballot papers and ran across the road to borrow papers from his "friend" next door.

"We do not do that. We do not train them to do that," Mepha said in Bloemfontein.

He said 97 spoilt ballot papers were retrieved from the voting station after the incident was discovered. "Both [IEC personnel] are gone now."

This was not Bloemfontein's only election problem. At Phase 7 Tuckshop, where a voting station tent was burnt down overnight, the voter turnout was low because of intimidation, Mepha said.

Important test

ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela voted in Soweto, saying the elections were an important test for the ruling party.

"The people are calling on us to deliver. They think that it's time to deliver. They think it's time to stop blaming the past for the ills of our society.

"Difficult as it may have been, 17 years is not enough time to rectify ills of the past, but it is time to deliver on services and jobs," said Madikizela-Mandela.

Back at the IEC results centre in Pretoria, ANC election head Fikile Mbalula said the ruling party was not perturbed by the intense campaigning before the elections.

"We are not scared, we are actually happy that other parties were campaigning in the manner they were campaigning. This is in our blood, we are used to it, it's in our DNA," said Mbalula.

Voters’ views

"What we can say is that we are confident of an overwhelming victory."

Voters on the street had different experiences of the day - some complained about long queues; others praised election officials; some used the holiday as an opportunity to braai or smoke dagga; others got up at 04:00 to pray that their political party would win.

Perhaps voters at the mobile station near the Olifants River in Limpopo would have one of the more interesting election tales to tell.

That station opened at 09:00, because electoral officers could not cross the crocodile-infested river.

They had to wait for an army vehicle to take them across to set up the station at Mankele Primary School in Lebowakgomo, after which election officials could finally sink their teeth into the job.
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