A voting station in Alexandra, Johannesburg was closed in the early afternoon – long before the traditional evening rush – amid allegations of rigging and collusion between officials of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the ANC.
A contingent of police were called to the station after an argument broke out between members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the ANC, although the altercation reportedly did not get physical.
Voting was disrupted, but by late afternoon the station was fully operational, the IEC said.
“We heard raised voices and then people stopped coming out,” said Alexander Beresford, a lecturer in the politics of African Development at the University of Leeds, who was conducting surveys in the township. “Things were getting aggressive, then the people in the queue got angry because the argument was holding up voting.”
Beresford said the EFF had accused the ANC of vote rigging, in collusion with IEC officials, saying the ruling party was ferrying voters between stations to cast multiple ballots.
EFF representatives at the IEC’s national election centre in Pretoria said they had received reports of officials found with large numbers of identity books, but were still investigating and had not confirmed the facts of the matter. The party said a case had been opened at the local police station.
The IEC said it had not received reports that identity books had been smuggled into an Alexandra voting station, but that it would investigate the matter.
It said its officials on the scene had tried to resolve the conflict “without success”, but that intervention from the Gauteng police saw the station reopened.
The IEC said voting was progressing smoothly across the country as of 5pm, ahead of the traditional evening rush. All voting stations were operational, chairperson Pansy Tlakula said at the body’s second update on the process.
The IEC said earlier that some voting stations had opened late, but that 95% were open by 11am.
The EFF has a considerable presence in the populous Alexandra, considered a key battleground by several parties.
By late afternoon the IEC said the biggest problem it faced was high voter turnout, with minor and sporadic instances of ballot shortages being dealt with.