‘Trend of stayaway protests’ may have thinned turnout

The people have spoken

Voting goes well despite ‘glitches with ink’, protests and weather

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the press and supporters after casting his vote in the general election at the Hitekani Primary School, in Chiawelo, Soweto, on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the press and supporters after casting his vote in the general election at the Hitekani Primary School, in Chiawelo, Soweto, on Wednesday.
Image: AFP/ Michele Spatari

Despite some voting stations not being open by late afternoon, shortages of ballot boxes and confusion over fake nails, the IEC said it was satisfied with how voting had gone on Wednesday.

Throughout the day the eagerness of many South Africans to cast their votes was undeniable. One East London man, Jalil Abbas, even abandoned the bedside of his pregnant wife to be the first to cast his vote.

On social media, scores of people shared their inked nails with pride.

But while the IEC was yet to tally up the total voter turnout late on Wednesday, early indications from Nelson Mandela Bay suggested that while voters in suburban areas came out in numbers, in many other parts of the city the turn out was poor.

"We have noted that in the township areas it seems it was poorer. I’m not 100% sure why but I think the weather today contributed," IEC regional supervisor Crosby Bacela said.

Apart from the weather, said political analyst Ongama Mtimka, if there was a decline in voter numbers it may be due to a trend of stayaway protests.

"In the past two elections people decided not to vote when given a choice to vote for their party or the opposition."

Elsewhere, voting stations that had not opened by Wednesday night because of protest action was the biggest problem the IEC faced.

In Ntabankulu, voting took a dark turn when a group of angry community members blocked access to the voting stations. The protest at Ntlangano ward 1 voting station meant that 591 eligible voters were denied the right to vote as the IEC took the decision to shut down the station.

Seven other stations around Ntabankulu were also disrupted by protesters and voting was delayed, according to the IEC.

Buffalo City also experienced some setbacks.

According to the IEC in the Eastern Cape, two incidents were reported in BCM where people operating political party tables outside voting stations asked voters for their names and then told them they needed not proceed as their names were not on the voters roll.

ANC provincial leader Oscar Mabuyane
ANC provincial leader Oscar Mabuyane
Image: File/ Masi Losi

There were four voting stations in Limpopo that had to be closed just hours after being opened because of unrest and safety concerns. These all re-opened by late afternoon.

The IEC condemned violence, unrest and disruptions saying it infringed on democracy.

The IEC also had to deal with a claim that there were “different queues for blacks and whites” at a Western Cape polling station.

But, the commission said, this was simply untrue.

After eagerly waiting in a queue, a Soweto woman said she was turned back because of her manicured nails.

Despite the IEC notifying its officers that the ink used to mark the fingers of those who had voted would not be affected by manicured nails, the woman said she had to ask for the intervention of the station manager.

“I said they can ink at the bottom [but] they said they need to ink the nail. So I asked, ‘What difference does it make?’ They told me to vote next elections,” she said on Facebook.

She was eventually allowed to cast her vote.

It was a similar experience for EFF leader Julius Malema’s wife, Mantwa Matlala-Malema, who reportedly was told to remove her fake nails. After Malema complained, Matlala-Malema was allowed to vote.

These were among the hiccups but in a press briefing on Wednesday evening, the IEC said the polls had gone “smoothly and steadily”.

The winners of the election will be announced on Saturday. After voting in Soweto, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC had learnt its lesson and would no longer allow corruption and patronage to compromise the delivery of its mandate.

“Corruption got into the way, patronage got into the way and not focusing on the needs of our people got in the way,” he said of the party’s turbulent past.

An upbeat Oscar Mabuyane, the ANC’s provincial leader, cast his vote at his former school, Zilimbola Junior Secondary school, in Deberha village at Engcobo.

The province's most powerful politician was optimistic about a decisive victory for the ANC and promised to boost the province’s economy.

The African Transformation Movement’s provincial spokesperson, Zama Ntshona, expressed concern about the quality of ink used in the elections.

He said the party had received reports of ink “disappearing” from the thumbs of voters.

“We also received reports of problems with the zip scanners [used to capture data],” Ntshona said.

“This now appears to be carrying on today.”

The IEC said: “The commission wishes to remind all voters that any attempt to undermine the integrity of the election process – including attempting to remove the ink mark – constitutes electoral fraud and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, the man at the helm of the ANC, has to embody many different characters in order to reach all his audiences. We followed Cyril Ramaphosa on his campaign trail to show you his different faces.

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