Former president Thabo Mbeki talks to the media after he voted. (Carien du Plessis, News24)
Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki, who arrived at the Holy Family College in Killarney to vote just after noon, said his vote was still a secret but “you can guess what it is”.
Mbeki, who met this week with EFF leader, Julius Malema, as well as with Johannesburg mayor, Parks Tau, said the reason he insisted his vote was a secret was "to ensure the integrity of the system – the electoral system".
He said it was also "to make sure that people can vote freely with their conscience and not feel intimidated".
“That is why I’m raising it, not necessarily that my vote is a secret, you can guess what it is, but I feel it is important to communicate this message so that everybody should be assured that what we should have done here is that nobody will come down from the street and ask why did you vote for so and so and so and so because you see that is a very important thing. So it’s still secret,” he laughed.
Asked about elections violence Mbeki said it was true that these elections were “hotly contested,” but he felt South Africa’s democracy was strong.
“The constitutional democracy has been tested many times already since 1994, and I think we have survived that.
“But the question that you raise about the absence of violence is very important. Hopefully nothing will happen. Because I’m quite sure all of us are very deeply concerned about what happened before in terms of reports of the media of so many candidate councillors being killed," he said.
“That was very disturbing and I’m sure I have seen now the police service say they are investigating and they will take action if they find the people responsible, but it is very important and I hope that by the time we finish today this situation of peace will continue to prevail.”
Asked about what lessons Africa could learn from South Africa’s elections, Mbeki smiled and chose his words carefully.
"I think there are many many countries on the continent that hold elections. In the past we have had our electoral commission intervene in some countries at their request, for instance the elections in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) in 2006, and they have done this in other countries," he said.
"But I think that we also probably have got a lot to learn from other countries on the continent."
Mbeki said South Africa should set an example of non-violence. "I really think the example that all of us should set ourselves is to ensure that you have genuinely free and fair elections, no intimidation, no violence, no fraud, no ballot fixing, stolen boxes and lost ballot papers and all that.
"All of us need to demonstrate that it is possible for us as a continent to fully respect this notion so that you make sure the process does indeed allow the people to do the governing."
Celebration of the struggle
Asked how it felt to cast his vote 22 years into democracy, Mbeki said: “Well you know we were involved in [the] struggle for a long time... and you know the Freedom Charter says the people shall govern.
"So this issue of the capacity of the people to choose their own government to participate in the process of determining policy has been very central for many many decades of our lives and therefore when you come to exercise that vote it really is in a sense a celebration of that struggle.
"It is a celebration of that victory because as I said the matter of one person one vote and the capacity of people to govern was such an central purpose of the struggle. And therefore to come vote is really to salute a victory.”
There was an initial mix-up with his voting station, with journalists being told that he would vote at the Killarney Country Club, about 3km from the college.
Mbeki updated his address details with the IEC shortly after casting his ballot in front of a large group of journalists.
Photographers and journalists had to be shooed away from the voting booth by electoral officials where Mbeki was making his mark.
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