Covid-19 scared voters away – Mabuyane

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Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.


Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane believes the low voter turnout in this year’s local government elections can be partly attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to City Press at the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) results operation centre at the East London International Convention Centre, Mabuyane said the electorate chose not to take a risk by going to the voting stations, as a result of the coronavirus which destroyed many lives.

The 2021 local government elections have seen the lowest voter turnout since 1994. While others speculated this could be as a result of voter apathy or failure of the governing party, the pandemic was most likely a big factor, the ANC in the province contends.

Although 26 million people had registered to vote in Monday’s elections, only 12 million turned out.

READ: Northern Cape ANC blames internal squabbles for drop in support

Mabuyane said campaigning with the backdrop of the pandemic was a challenge, not only for his political party, the ANC, but for everybody:

If you look at the voter turnout, many people could not risk their lives… people have seen family members perish in this pandemic so, surely, that was another deterrent that made other people feel uncomfortable to go out and vote.

He said they appreciated those who had gone out to express themselves through the ballot, despite the odds.

“That is what we want in our country. We need this democratic order to be continued because it’s about the future. To guarantee prosperity of the country, we need that democratic order to be preserved,” said Mabuyane.

READ: Mabuyane fights for his political life

At least 15 148 have died in the Eastern Cape as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest statistics released on Tuesday. Currently the province has 220 active cases.

Nationally, the Eastern Cape has the third largest number of Covid-19 deaths, with the Western Cape topping the list with 20 147, followed by Gauteng with 19 603 deaths, as of Tuesday.

Khayakazi Magudumana, the provincial electoral officer of the IEC in the Eastern Cape, said those who come out to vote on Monday at the province’s 4 809 voting stations represented a 46% voter turnout, which was lower than the previous local government elections in 2016.

She said they were also disappointed about the low voter turnout as the IEC, but should not be blamed for it, because it was out of their control.

Eastern Cape results from the IEC's website at 6.30pm on Wednesday.

Magudumana said that, as at 5pm on Tuesday, in terms of the results that were ready – meaning those that had been captured, scanned and audited – they were at 89% in the province.

“In the two metros of the Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela Bay is at 80% and Buffalo City is at 89%,” said Magudumana. 

We have to finish tonight. We are really pushing. The team is a little bit tired, but determined to finish tonight.

She said they were also disappointed about the low voter turnout and that, as the IEC, they should not be blamed as it was out of their control.

Eastern Cape EFF chairperson Yazini Tetyana said both the pandemic and the limited time to campaign during these elections were big factors to the low voter turnout.

“We said as the EFF that the elections must be pushed to next year; we needed more time to campaign. But also, Covid-19 had been an impediment and we could not do any otherwise.”


Lubabalo Ngcukana 


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