How to get to vote in November’s local government elections

South Africans will have the opportunity in just over two months’ time to cast their votes in the local government elections on 1 November.

After a number of court cases on whether the vote should take place or be postponed to early next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the November date has finally been set after the Constitutional Court dismissed the application by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) for a deferment to February 2022.

The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the IEC had approached the apex court after it resolved to adopt a report compiled by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, which said if the elections were held on 27 October they would not be free and fair because Covid-19 had restricted campaigning, among other concerns.

In its dismissal of the application, the Constitutional Court said the IEC could not call for a postponement of elections outside the permissible 90-day window period which ends on November 1, and that a new date must be set between 27 October and 1 November this year. 

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma subsequently proclaimed the new date, with the effect that voter registration has been reopened for the weekend of 18 and 19 September.

Your registration how-to guide

According to the IEC, there are 25.6-million registered voters, of whom 55.23% are women and 44.77% men.

The IEC’s national spokesperson, Kate Bapela, told the M&G that registration would run from 8pm to 5pm on both days and that those registering must present a South African bar-coded identity document, a smart ID card or a temporary ID certificate.

If you are an existing voter whose personal information has changed, it is compulsory to update or amend your details before voting day. This can either be done online or at the voting/registration stations in your area. 

To find out which station is nearest to you, visit the IEC’s Voting Station Finder.

People over the age of 18 years who are South African citizens are eligible to register and vote at the more than 20 000 available voting/registration stations nationwide. Online registration is also available. 

According to Bapela, individuals qualifying to vote “may also use the online voter registration facility [where] existing voters can update or amend their details from wherever they are”. New voters can also register online. 

“The online access facility is available 24/7 until the voters’ roll closes when the election is proclaimed,” Bapela said.

How to register online:

  1. Go to registertovote.elections.org.za;
  2. Provide your name and surname, cellphone number, and create a password
  3. Enter your address details
  4. Upload a photo or file of your valid SA ID book. Make sure the barcode is clearly visible
  5. Insert the one-time pin (OTP) sent to the mobile phone number you entered at step 2
  6. Within 24 hours of completing steps 1 to 5, you will receive a notification that you are registered to vote.

Once you have registered to vote in a particular area you cannot vote outside of that area.

“You register where you live, vote where you are registered,” said Bapela.

To confirm if you’re registered, follow any of these five steps 

  1. SMS your ID number to 32810 (It will cost R1 per SMS).
  2. Go to your local IEC office from Monday to Friday during office hours.
  3. Go to the IEC website www.elections.org.za and follow the link “Am I registered to vote?’.
  4. Check the voter’s roll at the voting station where you are registered to vote during the voter registration weekend.
  5. Call the toll-free number 0800 11 8000 from a landline to reach the IEC’s call centre. 

In April the IEC’s chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the commission was confident that “with the necessary support from the political parties, civil society and South Africans, we will host a successful local government election”, although he conceded this year’s poll would be among the most challenging to hold.

One of the biggest challenges would be to ensure voters’ health safety amid the pandemic.

“In order to prevent the elections posing a risk to all participants, the electoral commission introduced a range of special Covid-19 prevention measures for by-elections,” Bapela said.

These measures include the wearing of masks and the frequent use of hand sanitisers. This year, an indelible ink liquid will be applied from a bottle onto the voter’s thumb using cotton buds.

For any information about your voter status visit the IEC’s voter information hub here. Persons who do not have access to online services can call the IEC’s contact centre on 0800 11 8000.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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