Voter registration off to sluggish start

2011-02-05 20:21

Registration for this year’s local government elections got off to a slow start yesterday despite a spirited attempt to enlist more than a million people to the voters’ roll.

There was a low turnout at most registration centres City Press visited in Gauteng, and the Western Cape is said to have had the same problem.

At about 11.40am, Joubert Park, the biggest voting station in Johannesburg, had registered just 40 people. At the Central Methodist Church 62 new voters had registered by lunchtime.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials in Cape Town expressed concern at the low turnout at DF Malan High School in Belville after only two people had registered in the morning.

Nine voting stations – five in Keimoes in Northern Cape, two in Beaufort West in Western Cape and two in the Free State’s Philippolis area – did not open due to flooding.

“I am not sure about other voting stations, but here in Joubert Park it’s slow this year. Usually it would be full by now,” said Patrick Bhosa, who has worked for the IEC for almost four years.

IEC chair Brigalia Bam said that by 10am yesterday 196 000 people had visited voting stations throughout the country.

“As at 10am, 98% of our registration stations had opened and were fully functional. Registration is taking place in 20 867 ­voting stations; a 6% increase over the 19 726 voting stations for the 2009 elections,” she said.

She confirmed that there was flooding at nine voting stations. In some cases, Bam said, tents put up for voter registration were stolen, forcing IEC ­officials to use the boots of their cars as registration centres.

The tents which were erected were stolen overnight at various centres. Some of the reported thefts occurred in Centurion in Gauteng; Ermelo and Emalahleni in Mpumalanga; and Bethlehem in Free State. Northern Cape also experienced cases of tents being stolen.

The tents were hired by the IEC from service providers and were intended to be used in places where there were no schools, halls or community structures to accommodate the voters.

In Limpopo’s Blouberg municipality, IEC employees had to climb a mountain to reach 500 households.

The registration weekend – which started yesterday with the aim of getting 1.5 million people added to the voters’ roll ahead of this year’s municipal polls – ends at 5pm today.

The elections are expected to take place in May.

Bam and President Jacob Zuma appealed to the youth to register in their numbers.

“Please, please hurry up. It is getting closer to 5pm,” Bam said. There are currently 22?667?881 registered voters on the roll.

Yesterday Zuma visited Eastern Cape while top ANC leaders such as Tokyo Sexwale, Siphiwe Nyanda, Jeff Radebe and Blade Nzimande travelled to KwaZulu-Natal to encourage ­voters to register.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille visited Cape Town’s Atlantis area while Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi went to KwaZulu-Natal’s Lindelani area.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane visited polling stations in Randburg and Diepsloot.

Sihle Zikalala, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary, said the ruling party had deployed its senior leaders to various regions to encourage people to register to vote.

“The ANC is calling upon the people of this province to go out in their numbers and register for the upcoming elections,” he said.

On Friday Zuma urged the youth to take part in the elections in great numbers “because it determines our own future”.

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