/ 9 November 2013

ANC pleased with voter registration process despite violent protests

Despite many voters speaking poorly of the ANC in Tlokwe
Despite many voters speaking poorly of the ANC in Tlokwe

The ruling party was pleased with the voter registration progress currently underway, it said on Saturday.

"Almost 100% of polling stations across the country have been operating since opening time this morning and many South Africans have commended the speed and ease with which they have been able to register to vote in the 2014 general elections," ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said.

Mthembu said the ANC was confident that eligible voters who had not registered would do so following the success of the first day.

"Voting is an inalienable right, hard won through the centuries-old struggles of our people.

"It is because of their sacrifices that the ANC reiterates the call for South Africans in general and young people in particular to get up, step up and be part of shaping their future," he said.

President Jacob Zuma and his daughter Msholozi visited a voting station at the Ntolwane Primary School in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, the SABC reported.

Zuma was checking if he was still registered in the area while Msholozi was there to re-register from Cape Town to Nkandla.

Community protests
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said voter registration had proceeded peacefully throughout the country.

However, sporadic incidents of community protests affected the registration process in "very limited areas", chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya told reporters in Pretoria.

"The [affected] areas include Bekkersdal in Gauteng, Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape, Malamulele in Limpopo, the Joe Morolong municipality in the Northern Cape and Lansdowne Road in the Western Cape," said Moepya.

"In all these areas, election officials are working closely with security forces, community leaders, political parties and other stakeholders to ensure citizens' rights to register to vote are not impacted and voting stations are operational as soon as possible."

Moepya said 99.7% of 22 263 voting stations had been operating normally across South Africa as at 3pm on Saturday. He said all voter registration centres which had been closed would be re-opened as soon as possible.

The IEC's Gauteng official Masego Sheburi said seven voting stations had been closed in Bekkersdal.

"Seven stations have temporarily closed … [They] were forced to close because of activities in the vicinity of the stations. [We are] … making efforts to re-open them today still."

It was alleged that during a walk-about in the area, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa advised IEC officials to close their stations immediately due to high tension in the area.

Mthethwa denied advising that the stations be closed, saying the report was misleading and unprofessional.

Police spokesperson Captain Jabulani Kundethe said at the time that there were only three "distractions" in the morning as stations prepared to open.

"Police took control of it," he said.

According to reports, an angry mob had torched a municipal building and barricaded roads.

The mob was also reportedly intimidating community members wanting to register for the 2014 general election.

Violent protests erupted in Bekkersdal, outside Westonaria several weeks ago, with people demanding better service delivery and the removal of their mayor. The protests were suspended last Sunday to allow government time to investigate residents' grievances.

'Dirty votes'
Residents reportedly said they would not allow the IEC into the area unless Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane apologised for comments she made during a recent visit to the area last month.

It was alleged Mokonyane told Bekkersdal protesters who did not want her to address them that the ANC did not need their "dirty votes".

Mokonyane said in a statement on Friday: "Given the situation currently and in the best interest of peace and stability, I really would want to apologise to those who may believe, or who were made to believe that I made such attacks to the residents of Bekkersdal." – Sapa