The ANC and the Democratic Alliance both tried to score some quick political points on Sunday as the final voter registration drive came to a close. Now that we have an election date, 7 May, the clock’s ticking – less than three more months of stunts, accusations and counter-accusations coming at you faster than an SAA bailout. If you still want to make your vote count, it’s time to get cracking. By GREG NICOLSON.
While President Jacob Zuma was “relaxed at home in Nkandla” (yep, those are the words from the Presidency) during the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) final voter registration drive, his ANC deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, was one of the many party officials dashing around the country singing the ANC’s successes. On his travels, his convoy hit the blue lights to avoid traffic and, Humphrey Mmemezi style, caused an accident and failed to stop to offer help, say the Democratic Alliance (DA).
DA Gauteng leader John Moodey: “After being stuck in traffic for several minutes, the Merafong Police switched on their blue lights and sped ahead. In the process, a cyclist was knocked over. Ramaphosa’s convoy did not stop. They left the scene immediately as the man lay knocked out next to the road. DA activists were on hand to help and saw the injured man being taken away by an ambulance. He sustained serious head injuries.” Moodey railed against the ANC, calling the incident “symptomatic of the ANC leadership’s arrogance in dealing with people. Jacob Zuma’s ANC thinks that it can do whatever it feels like.”
Given the timing of the event, less than three months before elections, and Ramaphosa’s controversies – Marikana and bidding R18 million for a prize buffalo – the DA must have thought it struck gold. Another account immediately emerged. The SABC’s Mzwandile Mbeje said he witnessed the incident. “Not true. I was there; cyclist was actually assisted by people in the convoy. Found him lying down on the street,” said Mbeje on Twitter. “He was knocked down by a car not connected with convoy. Found him on the way and stopped to help,” he continued, congratulating Ramaphosa’s team for stopping and calling paramedics.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu was fuming. “The over-zealousness of the DA to portray the ANC negatively has undermined the little that is left of its integrity,” he said. Ramaphosa’s team found a man lying beside the street with a bicycle, said Mthembu. “In exercising responsible citizenry, the [ANC deputy president’s] convoy stopped to investigate. The team was told by people who were standing next to the man that he had hit a tree. On inspecting the man, the [deputy president’s] team realised that the man was having an epileptic fit. The team tried to resuscitate him and in the meantime traffic officers were asked to call an ambulance which came and collected the man.” The ANC wants an apology and will complain to the IEC over the DA’s “recklessness”. “It is sad that the DA, in its desperation, chose to use an inappropriate incident to try to score cheap political points. The ANC demands that the DA must apologise unconditionally and retract its statement,” said Mthembu.
Ramaphosa was due to speak to residents in Bekkersdal, where protesters are demanding the local municipality be dissolved. Residents vowed not to allow registrations this weekend and even petrol-bombed two voting stations. Heavy rain and logistical problems hindered some other voting stations, but only two sites did not open all weekend – Joe Morolong and Tsantsabane in the Northern Cape, because of flooding. In the North West, seven people were arrested for damaging election material.
Overall, the IEC reported a positive turnout, with a total “registration activity” of 1.2 million people on Saturday. Half of the new registrations were 18- to 29-year-olds, with increased activity around universities and colleges. The percentage of eligible youth voters who register will be an important figure to watch, with only 22% registered before this weekend.
The IEC wants at least 80% of eligible voters to register. In a statement on Thursday, it said, “As of today, overall registration stands at 24.1 million. This is 76.7% of the estimated voting-age population, which according to Stats SA is 31.4 million. This includes just over one million new voters who were added to the voters’ roll during the previous registration weekend held in November 2013.” This is the first year that voters have been able to register abroad and the IEC has received 3,703 applications from 70 different locations, with the most coming from London, Dubai and Cuba.
After Zuma announced last week that the elections would be held on 7 May, the IEC reminded the public that registration closes only when the president issues an official proclamation. “Voter registration will thus continue until the date of the official proclamation of the election date,” said the IEC. “Proclamation of the election date by the president and the provincial premiers is expected at some stage in this month. The publication of this official notice triggers the election timetable that establishes deadlines for the submission of candidate lists and applications for specials votes, amongst others.”
Until then, eligible voters can still register at their municipal IEC office. Right up until 7 May, however, we’ll continue to see the major parties try to score quick points over rivals. Like election-fuelled violence, it’s all part of the road to the ballot box. DM
Photo: As dusk falls voters queue to cast their ballots before polls close in Cape Town’s Philippi township, April 14, 2004. South Africa’s third general election got off to a smooth start, almost exactly ten years after the country’s historic first democratic election swept the African National Congress power. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings.
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