South Africa

Elections 2014: The Western Cape votes

By Marianne Thamm & Rebecca Davis 8 May 2014

Close to three million voters were expected to turn out in the Western Cape on election day, to settle the political future of a province which has often refused to play by the rest of the country’s rules. Barring instances of inefficiency and a few complaints of procedural irregularities, it was a largely calm voting turnout in the opposition’s stronghold. MARIANNE THAMM and REBECCA DAVIS were buzzing around.

If weather plays a role in voting turnout, as some political analysts believe, then Mother Nature delivered a perfect autumnal day in most parts of the Western Cape for the country’s fifth general election and the first without Nelson Mandela.

Too much heat, it is said, can trigger aggression, while rain tends to keep poorer voters away from the polls. The comfortable 23 degrees in Cape Town on election day provided a generally subdued but jovial atmosphere at those voting stations visited by the Daily Maverick yesterday.

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The DA gazebo in Masiphumelele.

And while it was indeed a spectacular afternoon almost across the peninsula, it was a bone-chillingly icy wind that greeted Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier and DA leader, as she arrived with her husband, Professor Johann Maree, at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Rondebosch shortly after 8am to cast her vote.

Zille’s youngest son, Thomas Maree, a business reporter with CNBC, was among the hack pack that had gathered early to capture Zille’s arrival at the polling station.

The DA leader was due to leave for Port Elizabeth at 10am and had managed to pop both her ballots into the boxes by 9am before heading off for some last minute flesh-pressing.

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Residents of the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay dance outside the ANC offices near a polling station.

Despite the anxiety of campaign staff with an eye on her packed schedule, Zille insisted on standing in the voting queue to wait her turn. The same couldn’t be said for her short-lived comrade Mamphela Ramphele, casting her vote in Sea Point at the same time. The Agang leader appeared in high spirits as she swept into the polling station at the Sea Point library, greeting queuing voters with a merry “Good morning, fellow citizens!” Some of her fellow citizens appeared unsure who Ramphele was, but she was met with polite smiles.

Ramphele emerged from the station triumphantly displaying her voting mark on what she termed her “finger of hope”. Addressing journalists, she reminisced about the country’s first democratic elections twenty years earlier: “I cast my first vote in Boston,” Ramphele said. “I wept.”

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Bantu Holomisa’s UDM table in Masiphumelele.

Asked what she thought about Agang’s chances in this year’s polls, Ramphele sidestepped the question. “For Agang as a newcomer in the game, I believe we have already won,” she said airily, suggesting that the party has succeeded in establishing the “discourse of the citizen as the owner of democracy”.

The Atlantic Seaboard played host to a number of Cape Town’s voting bigwigs, with former ANC minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge sticking her ballot in the box just across the road from Ramphele a little later in the day. Madlala-Routledge, one of the ‘Vote No’ campaign organisers alongside Ronnie Kasrils, told journalists that she was voting “tactically”, and neither for the ANC or the DA.

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Constantia residents wait in dappled shade to cast their votes.

Former president FW de Klerk also chose the area to make his mark, close to the upmarket suburb of Bantry Bay. Accompanied by former DA star Raenette Taljaard, now an electoral officer, De Klerk was also granted the right not to wait in line – though his age would have qualified him for a queue-jump if his status weren’t deemed sufficient justification. De Klerk wouldn’t be drawn on who he voted for, but said he’d cast his vote based on which party best upheld Constitutional principles; which party had the most helpful economic principles; which party had the best track record on corruption; and which party espoused the most non-racial vision.

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ANC supporters in Hangberg in Hout Bay were out early, urging residents to vote.

“I was much less emotional than I was in 1994,” De Klerk remarked after voting, saying that it was “heartwarming” that the past twenty years had brought “much less tension between racial groups”. Young ANC party agents, who had set up a stand opposite the voting station, smilingly described it as a “bonus” that De Klerk had chosen to cast his vote there.

Near his home in Milnerton, another former Peace Prize winner turned out to cast his vote. With trademark ebullience, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was reported to have exclaimed, “There we go. Whoopee!” after voting. The Arch wouldn’t be drawn on the content of his vote, but stressed the high price the country had paid to ensure a democratic franchise.

Over in Hout Bay valley, one of the few regions in the Western Cape where working class coloured and black residents live within close proximity to their wealthy white neighours, the mood was more festive, with music pumping and smoke curling between the rooftops from several informal chisanyamas set up alongside the crowded streets.

Street names like Nelson Mandela Drive, Allan Boesak, Luthuli and M. Goniwe Avenue are a testament to ANC support in the informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu, on the slopes of the Constantiaberg, and home to around 15,000. Party supporters were out early wearing ANC T-shirts, waving banners and ferrying voters to stations in taxis festooned with the party’s colours.

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One of President Jacob Zuma’s battle anthems, Awuleth’ Umshini Wami, blared out over Hangberg in Hout Bay while ANC supporters danced in the streets.

A queue at the Izilo Lobomi Centre of Life in Nelson Mandela Drive moved swiftly as residents milled about chatting and dancing.

Across the bay in the coloured settlement of Hangberg, a small group of chanting and singing ANC supporters gathered as one of President Jacob Zuma’s anthem’s Awuleth’ Umshini Wami blasted over the hills.

The widest variety of party representation could be found in the informal settlement of Masiphumelele near the village of Kommetjie, where representatives from the EFF, the UDM, the PAC, the DA, the ANC as well as the NFP had set up tables close to a voting station.

Early in the day Masiphumelele residents, who seemed to be enjoying the public holiday sitting in the sun or shopping at informal markets, trickled into several polling stations while some curious residents hung around momentarily before shuffling off.

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Several political parties showed their colours at in Masiphumelele informal settlement near the seaside village of Kommetjie in the Western Cape, including supporters of Zanele Magwaza Msibi’s National Freedom Party.

Over lush and leafy Constantia, rows of 4x4s were parked at a polling station on Main Road as predominantly white residents stood in dappled shade, most enraptured by their cell-phones, either tweeting or playing Candy Crush, in a short and swiftly moving queue.

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“Independent Wealth Managers”, St. James Global did a bit of silent marketing to Constantia residents as well as offering ice-cold jugs of Energade.

And instead of the chisanyamas so popular in townships, Constantia residents were offered free ice-cold jugs of Energade by a global “offshore” finance company, St James Global – Independent Wealth Mangers, as their banner announced, which had set up a table outside the voting station.

As the voting cut-off time of 9pm rolled round, however, the centre of the action moved from voting stations in the province’s 11 districts to the IEC’s election results centre in Bellville, where journalists and nervous-looking party hacks prepared for a long night ahead.

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Julius Malema’s EFF supporters near a voting station in Masiphumelele.

Given the opportunity to address the centre briefly, political party representatives generally paid tribute to the work of the IEC and declared themselves satisfied with the province’s day of voting. A notable exception was the EFF, who announced that they had “serious misgivings as a result of the high level of irregularities experienced by our party agents”, but said they would only give full details of their allegations in days to come. The IEC said that the party has not yet laid a formal complaint.

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A Kommetjie resident cashes in on the expected voting crowds selling coffee and brownies.

The major problem experienced by Western Cape voting stations appeared to have involved running out of ballot papers and ballot boxes, which saw polling stations temporarily shut in areas including Sea Point and Milnerton. IEC Western Cape head Courtney Sampson told journalists that this was a result of the concession which allowed voters to vote in different areas to the one in which they were registered, leaving some stations unprepared for voter numbers.

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The ANC table in Masiphumelele.

Agang claimed that their leader Ramphele had “busted” a Philippi IEC official illegally moving ballot papers between stations, with a dramatic photo of the confrontation rapidly circulating on social media. The IEC responded that the papers in question were unused, contrary to Ramphele’s claim, and being brought in to supplement ballot paper stocks in the voting station.

Zille took to Twitter at one stage to claim that “the IEC in Cape Town was logistically chaotic”, although the DA’s Ivan Meyer told the Bellville results centre later that the party felt the election was fair “overall”. Asked about Zille’s comment, the IEC’s Sampson replied: “Helen Zille is entitled to her opinion and I’m entitled to mine.”

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A PAC presence at Masiphumelele.

The first election results expected to come in were from Robben Island, as has been customary in the past. In the 2009 elections, the island – more meaningful for its obvious Apartheid symbolism than anything else – went to the DA, with the blue party winning 52 votes to the ANC’s 50. In this year’s elections, there were a reported 70 registered voters.

But Robben Island lost its special status this time around, with the first reported results coming from Mount Ayliffe in the Eastern Cape. The reason for Robben Island’s delay was charmingly anachronistic: sweeping fog prevented ferries from reaching the Cape Town mainland. For all the high-tech initiatives of the 2014 elections, sometimes Mother Nature still has the last word. DM

Main Photo: Helen Zille speaks to journalists before casting her vote in student suburb of Rondebosch in the Western Cape. Accompanied by her husband Johann Maree, the Premier of Cape Town and leader of the DA stood at the back of a queue with other voters waiting her turn.

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