Results in the most keenly fought election since the dawn of democracy start rolling in this afternoon and by midnight votes in almost all Eastern Cape municipalities should be tallied.
Only the results from two big metros, Buffalo City Metro and Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB), will take longer but by noon tomorrow the numbers should be in.
Smaller stations will deliver first.
This was confirmed by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Eastern Cape head Thami Mraji.
The ANC is expected to win the bulk of the Eastern Cape but the outcome should be known by parties by the end of tomorrow, even though the official results will only be announced by President Jacob Zuma on Saturday.
Today all eyes are on NMB where the ANC and DA are neck-and-neck with neither expected to win an overall majority unless township ANC voters hand the DA a victory by staying away from the polls.
In the 2014 national vote the ANC took 49% of the provincial vote in NMB, the DA 40% and the EFF 4%.
The ANC’s move to deploy World Cup 2010 boss Danny Jordaan to the Friendly City seems to be paying dividends, though the DA has nominated its second most senior member, federal chairman Athol Trollip, to contest him for mayor.
A coalition may therefore be on the cards with small parties like the EFF, UDM, the union-based United Front, ACDP and even the odd independent councillor as potential kingmakers.
In BCM, the ANC is expecting a comfortable win. Internal polls saw ANC support drop nationally to 55%-58% from 62% in 2014.
The DA is expected to grow its support from 23% in 2014 to 26%-28% and the EFF could grow from its 2014 levels of 6% to 8%-10%.
Voting stations will open at 7am and close at 7pm, said Mraji.
Voters arriving at closing time will still be able to vote, he said.
“They will not be closed out. They must all be allowed to vote if they are there.”
Yesterday Mraji ordered all IEC vehicles transporting voting materials to be filled as a precaution during the petrol supply strike. “We don’t know when petrol pumps will dry up,” he said.
Results will be independently audited and then captured by IEC officials before being made public.
The IEC used helicopters to supply stations in Ntabankulu’s Ward 16. “When we got there protesting residents had dug trenches and we could not access the stations.”
He was also concerned about threats to officials in Amahlathi’s Kei Lands and Kei Road yesterday and the impact of a municipal strike in Komani (Queenstown).
There had been a shortage of special voting envelopes in BCM due to “minor distribution logistics”.
“The big ones will complete counting in the early hours of Thursday morning. From there, they must take them to the capturing sites where the results will be audited and then captured by the IEC,” he said.
“It is only then that we will have the results in the system.”
Electioneering was officially closed by the IEC last night, but political parties will be working on the ground today.
ANC NEC member and Finance Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas was yesterday deployed to the Cacadu region in a last push to sway voters.
Among those expected to vote today are Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle, who will cast his vote at Beaconhurst Primary at 8am, and Athol Trollip, who will vote at Westbourne Oval in Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth.
The ANC’s BCM mayoral elect, Xola Pakati will vote in Morningside at 10am and Economic Freedom Fighters’ BCM mayoral elect Chumani Matiwane at Buffalo City College. This is where ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane will also vote. ANC provincial election head Mlibo Qoboshiyane will vote at the Mthatha City Hall, said his spokesman Mvusi Sicwetsha.
The state’s intelligence agencies have identified election hotspots, where extra police officers will be on duty. A force of 12000 police officers is in the province to beef up support, keep order and help as the weather deteriorates later.
Mraji said election hotspots were in the rural east in Ntabankulu, Mbizana and Elundini.
Yesterday, the IEC found itself with unresolved ward demarcation disputes on its hands in Aberdeen, which was supposed to be in a new ward, but was put in another ward.
“That is for the Municipal Demarcation Board (MBD) to deal with. But it affects us in terms of people registration,” said Mraji.
Of the country’s 22612 polling stations, 1328 were viewed as medium risk and 650 as high risk.
Tsolo in the Eastern Cape suffered alleged political violence.