General elections kicked off with minor hiccups, says IEC

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) reported on Wednesday that a staggering 93% of voting stations opened both online and physically.

However, the remaining ones followed suit shortly after a series of minor hiccups such as late deliveries, delayed security escorts, and the odd community protest.

Despite these trivial setbacks, the nation’s enthusiasm for democracy was palpable as queues formed before dawn, proving once again that South Africans are willing to stand in line and wait for hours to record their political choices, said IEC deputy electoral officer Masego Shiburi during a media briefing at the national results operating centre.

Shiburi said the IEC acknowledged these minor hiccups and could improve on those fronts in the future.

He added that all trained staff members reported for duty at 7am, ready to welcome the first of the 26-million eligible voters at 23 292 stations across the country.

He said that election operations reported good progress with minimal incidents at noon.

“The electoral commission assures voters that adequate supplies of all materials, including more than 90-million ballot papers, are available, and every voter will receive assistance to vote,” said Shiburi.

Integrity of the election

Shiburi reminded voters to vote where they are registered and to make one mark on one ballot.

“Clear skies and good weather were reported throughout the country. The commission welcomes the message from the government that no loadshedding is forecast for today or the coming days.”

For those adventurous enough to consider removing the indelible ink from their thumbs, he said, the commission offered a gentle reminder: Any attempt to undermine the integrity of the election process constituted electoral fraud, punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

“The electoral commission continues to meet with the key players in this election, political parties, and independents, at the national party liaison committee, the provincial party liaison committee, and the local party liaison committees.”

He continued: “We continuously engage in the unfolding election process and the issues arising from the operations at various sites of the 23 292 voting stations.”

Shiburi said that for the remaining voters, there was still time to join the democratic process before the clock strikes 9pm.

Home Affairs’ working hours extended

He said that, according to the Department of Home Affairs, 16 000 people collected identification documents between 4pm and 9pm on Tuesday.

Home Affairs would match the IEC’s opening hours and remain open until 9pm tonight, according to Shiburi.

In terms of voter turnout, he said that the commission was anticipating higher numbers.

“If early indications are anything to go about, we may match or just surpass the 66% voter turnout.”

He added that this was not a case of “blind faith” because, between 2021 and the certification of the voter rolls prior to this election, there was a decline of at least 800 000 individuals.

However, despite this decline, the registration figures increased to 27.7-million, marking the largest voter roll ever compiled before an election.

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