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What the low voter turnout really shows

Pomfret is a town like no other in South Africa. A substantial number of Portuguese-speakers live there, descendants of soldiers who fought in the South African Defence Force’s 32 Battalion during the Border War in Angola.

The town’s residents are South Africans but they didn’t vote in the May 8 elections.

Pomfret forms part of the Molopo local municipality in the North West, where only 48.5% of residents voted — the lowest voter turnout in the country. It was followed by Ratlou, in the same province, with a 51% turnout, Nyandeni in the Eastern Cape and then Collins Chabane in Limpopo, both at under 54% turnout.

Nationally, the 65% voter turnout was the lowest since the advent of South Africa’s democracy. This, and the low percentage of registered voters, decreased the number of people voting for the two biggest parties, and the number of people giving the ANC a mandate to rule for the next five years.

Only some 30% of the population gave the party the mandate to rule. More than 30-million South Africans are eligible to vote; 74% of them registered to vote. Even fewer people actually voted, especially in small municipalities such as Molopo.

The Mail & Guardian understands that no elections were held in Pomfret: the gate to enter the town’s voting area was barricaded, so no one voted. The co-ordinator for the Forum for Service Delivery, Sylvester Tong, said there was no way to campaign in the area because the residents had boycotted the elections.

Pomfret’s residents live in limbo; talks of relocating them have persisted for years. Few, if any, services are provided and there are no employment prospects.

“Many areas in the municipality have been complaining about the roads and lack of service delivery and decided not to vote. So it’s not a surprise that our area would have the lowest voter turnout in the country,” said Tong.

But in the majority of municipalities where turnout was less than 60%, the ANC did well — getting more than 70% of the vote. The opposite was true in the majority of areas where voter turnout was highest. In areas such as uMngeni in KwaZulu-Natal, Overstrand and Hessequa in the Western Cape, and Mogale City and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, the ANC had some of its lowest vote counts.

Lowest turnout

Ganyesa/Pomfret, North West: 48.5%

Ratlou, North West: 51%

Nyandeni, Eastern Cape: 52.19%

Collins Chabane, Limpopo: 53.09%

Okhahlamba, KwaZulu-Natal: 53.22%

Lepele-Nkumpi, Limpopo: 53.35%

Tswaing, North West: 53.7%

Mhlontlo, Eastern Cape: 53.73%

King Sabata Dalindyebo, Eastern Cape: 53.89%

Ephraim Mogale, Limpopo: 54.42%

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