Free State election officials fired

2011-05-18 18:23

Bloemfontein - Two voting station presiding officers in the Free State were fired on Wednesday after one borrowed ballot papers from his "friend" at a neighbouring voting station, said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

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 ballot papers from his "friend" next door.

"We do not do that. We do not train them 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."

In Mangaung (Bloemfontein) and Matjhabeng (Welkom) there was a "heavy" presence of voters.

Mepha said those inside the voting station borders at 19:00 tonight would be allowed to finish voting.

The Free State IEC said that by 15:30 an estimated 177 593 voters, out of more that 1.3 million, had made their cross in the elections.

Asked about an expected low voter turnout, Mepha said it was a trend in South Africa that local government elections attracted a lower voter turnout.

"The trend is 45% to 48% normally; unfortunately, people in South Africa are not forced to vote."

In Phase 7 Tuckshop, near Bloemfontein, where a voting station tent was burnt down overnight the voter turnout was low because of intimidation, Mepha said.

Glass in hand

At Bergman Square near Grassland a long queue of voters along the street were standing in the afternoon sun waiting their turn to enter.

At the tented voting station voting was running smoothly while pensioners on chairs at the entrance waited their turn on a taxi to be taken back home.

Across the street in an RDP house loud music was coming from inside.

Many residents at the voting station, including the house owner in his yard, were dancing to the beat. Glass in hand he was not interested in talking.

His neighbour, Benjamin Lenjanile, 42, was friendlier and practising his golf swings with a 3-iron and two golf balls.

"No, I did not vote across the street because they told me I’m registered in another ward," he said.

The tent across the street was busy since early, he said, while aiming a drive at a cooldrink can buried in the driveway across the small lawn.

At the voting station's gate five boys with "draadkarre" (children's vehicles built out of wire) pulled up and "parked" their vehicles.

Gift Mpasi, 13, with his "VW" with tyres made from old tennis balls, opens a shoe box at the back and takes out a small plastic food container.

His mother Lidia Mosilo was an IEC official in the tent and he had brought her something to eat.

Two houses further down the street, Mimie Ntsoaki, and a friend were sitting on chairs borrowed from the house behind them. "Ons is moeg gestaan (We are tired of standing)."

She indicates her place in the long line of voters still waiting for a turn across the street.

"We make turns in coming to rest here," she said, adding that she "must vote" before the end of day.

The Bergman Square voting station was expected to be one of many in the Mangaung area to stay open late to accommodate all the voters.

- SAPA

Read more on:    iec  |  elections
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