IEC upbeat over registration

Political parties and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) are satisfied that everything possible has been done to ensure smooth voter registration in five provinces this weekend.

The IEC is, however, concerned about voter apathy and said this weekend’s turnout will determine whether South Africans are ready to vote or not. Minor difficulties were encountered in the build-up to registration weekend, said chief electoral officer Professor Mandla Mchunu on Thursday.

Mchunu said a few civil servants failed to turn up for training sessions as registration officials, bar-code scanners delivered to Thohoyandou in the Northern Province went missing and there were delays in the door-to-door delivery of pamphlets which started late on Wednesday. However, an upbeat Mchunu was expecting to catch up on the backlog.

“Despite these minor hitches, reports from the five provinces indicate that our staff on the ground are ready. “However, we believe that the registration process will not be perfect, but it will be good enough.”

Mchunu said the IEC will hold an assessment early next week in a bid to improve preparation for next weekend’s registration. Political parties said that the IEC had done a satisfactory job, except for the hiccups in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape.

Freedom Front IEC representative Colonel Piet Uys said: “I am convinced the [registration] process is well on track.” He supported the use of the army to assist with the registration of voters. “They [the IEC] will be saving a lot of money. The use of the army in elections is normal throughout the world. “Whether you send them to distribute blankets to victims of disasters, rescue people or on a peacekeeping mission, they have to do the job.”

Uys expressed concern over difficulties in his constituency with obtaining bar-coded identity documents and temporary registration certificates. He said that when he went to apply at the home affairs office in Pretoria, he found the queues too long and he left.

Inkatha Freedom Party IEC representative Peter Smith said the commission’s logistical problems had been solved, “but we don’t understand why it took so long to do so. “Let us not make political capital out of the IEC’s misfortunes because the problems are not only of their making — much of it is the government’s. That is not to say that the IEC can’t improve their communication skills.”

Pan Africanist Congress representative Phillip Kgosana launched a stinging attack on the government, saying it was “irresponsible. We don’t find the fault to be with the IEC, it is with the government. The IEC is a tool established by the Constitution. “And it is the government which must provide adequate resources to see that the IEC achieves the process for which it was enacted.”

The Democratic Party’s Mike Moriarty said the electoral process has been “severely compromised” by the late communication of registration points. He said the IEC “started the process late and spent lots of money on the wrong things. They could have done things better.”

The African Christian Democratic Party in the Western Cape raised disquiet about the late appointment of an IEC provincial liaison officer three weeks ago. “That made things difficult in terms of communication,” said the ACDP’s Kevin Southgate.

The African National Congress said all was well with the IEC. “Of course there are bound to be problems, but those have been sorted out,” said ANC election head Amos Masondo. “The situation looks fairly well in the five provinces that are going to register this weekend — Gauteng, North-West, the Northern Province, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. We had the problem of the employment of staffers and the government was asking the IEC, why employ staff when we have civil servants? Civil servants do election work in various democracies in the world.”

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Wally Mbhele
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