The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on Tuesday anticipated a smooth start to election day on Wednesday, reporting on a handful of “incidents” which have raised concern a day before the key May 8 polls.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the IEC was “encouraged” by a significant decline in protests ahead of the polls.
The sixth general election has been billed as the most hotly contested since 1994, with the governing ANC expected to fall below 60% for the first time in a national election and the country’s most prized province, Gauteng, at risk for the party.
Some 26.7-million voters, 22 924 voting stations, 189 000 volunteers and over 60-million national and provincial printed and distributed ballot papers will be in play on Wednesday as voting gets underway.
Mamabolo said police were on high alert in high risk areas and at least two police officers will be dispatched to each voting station.
The IEC has already fallen victim to crime, with “knife-wielding” men in Giyani confiscating and destroying 93 ballot papers from IEC officials, he said. Two suspects have since been arrested.
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The IEC has removed a party agent in Benoni for assisting to place special ballot papers into a ballot box. A video of the man clad in a blue t-shirt went viral yesterday showing how he held the box as an IEC official placed special votes inside it. Mamabolo said party agents are not permitted to handle any election material.
An IEC official has been suspended and is expected to be axed for gross negligence after three unused ballot boxes were found in Limpopo.
“We appreciate the vigilance of party agents and voters and urge them to report any incidents to the IEC firstly at the voting station,” Mamabolo said.
Sporadic incidents in which ballot papers were not stamped on the back had been reported and voters and party agents have been urged to ensure this happened.
IEC commissioner Janet Love said ensuring a free and fair election was a “collective endeavour” and the IEC relied on voters, observers and party agents to assist the commission by bringing such incidents to its attention.
Party agents held a meeting with the IEC on Tuesday morning and a number of issues were highlighted. Party liaison committee member from the Democratic Alliance Mike Moriarty said a number of issues had been raised where parties had concerns but these were being addressed by the IEC.
Mamabolo said there were stations which did not open for special votes on Tuesday but after intervention by the South African Police Service, had opened.
He called on South Africans to come out to vote in their numbers.
“The IEC calls on South Africans to celebrate 25 years of democracy by ensuring that tomorrow’s elections takes place in the spirit of 1994… Let’s ensure that SA remains to the world a shining light of democracy in action,” Mamabolo said.