Tlakula expects voter turnout of at least 40%
Pretoria - Results in South Africa's fourth democratic municipal elections starting trickling in on Wednesday evening after a long but mainly smooth voting day.
The first results for the local government elections arrived from a tiny ward in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, about an hour and a half after voting stations closed at 19:00. The result: ANC 4, DA 3.
Independent Electoral Commission chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula said Ward 74802011 had nine registered voters, of which seven had cast their ballots.
The African National Congress won 57% of the vote - or four votes - and the Democratic Alliance 43% - or three votes.
The only voting stations still open were those where voters had queued up before the 19:00 deadline.
"Everybody who were in the queue by 7pm will be assisted," said IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela.
By 22:00 there were still people in queues in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumulanga, Tlakula said. The IEC said throughout the day that voting was proceeding well 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.
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.
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, near Bloemfontein, where a voting station tent was burnt down overnight, the voter turnout was low because of intimidation, Mepha said.
But on Wednesday evening, the attention turned from voting to counting at the IEC results centre in Pretoria, where the ANC was confident of a good show.
At a press conference on Wednesday night at the centre Tlakula said that six officials had to be relieved of their duties - five in Limpopo and one in the Free State - because there were doubts about their impartiality.
Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Mosotho Moepya said: "When we had reason to believe some one would not act impartially, we relieved them."
He said that two of the six had been relieved as a result of objections from political parties.
Tlakula said she was satisfied at how the election had been run so far and that she expected a voter turnout of at least 40%. She said that two voters in the Western Cape died from natural causes as they queued up to cast their votes.
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.
"What we can say is that we are confident of an overwhelming victory."