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Elections Marred By Long Queues, Technical Glitches

The Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has refuted claims that it intentionally slowed down the voting process during the recent election day.

Long lines and technical issues with voter management devices (VMDs) were common sights for registered voters who showed up on Wednesday, leading to some leaving without voting.

IEC Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabola emphasized, “no deliberate delays on the part of the commission. We have no plans for a second day of voting.”

Mamabola addressed the media at the results operating center at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Wednesday evening, just hours before the polling stations were set to close.

He also responded to reports that some voters were turned away due to full ballot boxes, stating: “It shouldn’t be that way.”

At the Thokoza voting station in Johannesburg, a significant police presence was noted as numerous voters remained queued up, unable to vote before the stations closed.

One voter expressed his frustration to Eyewitness News: “I came here since 1pm but the line is not going. So, we don’t understand what is the problem here inside the voting station, because no one has come out to update us on what is happening. I was supposed to leave and go back to my house… I am feeling very bad,” criticizing the IEC for the situation.

Despite it being past the national voting closing time of 9pm, the IEC assured that no registered voter would be turned away before the cut-off time.

Mamabolo reiterated, “We have no plan for a second day of voting. We’ve never entertained such a plan, so voting will happen until it concludes, and until everybody in the queue is given an opportunity to vote.”

Voting extended past midnight, allowing some of the 27 million registered voters to participate.

University students from Wits, Tshwane University of Technology, and the University of Pretoria were notably affected by the delayed voting.

Early Thursday, initial results began to appear on the IEC’s dashboard shortly after midnight.

IEC’S PROCESS OF COUNTING VOTES

Mamabolo explained that he could not predict when vote counting would commence or when results would start to show on screens at the results center, attributing the delay to high voter turnout.

Previously, results would begin appearing around 1am, but Mamabolo noted, “We’re counting three ballots instead of two. It will be later than usual.”

He stressed the commission’s responsibility to balance “accuracy” and “speed” in vote counting, detailing that ballots are verified and counted at their respective voting stations under the watchful eyes of party and independent candidate agents, along with observers.

“Sealed ballot boxes are opened and emptied. Each ballot paper is unfolded facedown and checked for the Electoral Commission security stamp. Stamped ballots are considered valid. Unstamped ballots are invalid and are not counted toward the results,” Mamabolo added.

The IEC has up to seven days to declare the results, and Mamabolo was confident, “We have always been able to declare and announce the results well within this period and will endeavour to do so with these elections.”

IEC’S MANAGEMENT OF SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING

Mamabolo acknowledged the challenges of managing the flood of social media posts during the election, “The commission put a lot of resources with managing the social media space… What is clear though is that the quantum of posts outweighs out reaction time.”

POLITICAL PARTIES ON IEC’S CHALLENGES

Mmusi Maimane, leader of Build One South African (BOSA), criticized the recurring issues with the VDMs at the IEC, highlighting voter confusion over an additional third ballot.

RISE Mzansi’s national spokesperson, Gugu Ndima, commended the IEC’s efforts to conduct the elections “despite the technicalities.”

Nhlamulo Ndhlela of the uMkhonto weSiwe (MK) Party described the election day as bittersweet, stating, “We’ve had a bittersweet moment today [Wednesday]. But it’s a day we’ve been waiting for and we’re finally here. And naturally, it’s an election process. There will be glitches.”