2019 ELECTIONS: Wednesday AM

On the ground (Part 1): South Africans finally get to have their say

By Daily Maverick Team 8 May 2019
Caption
Voters line up at Ngwoneni Primary School Voting Station early in the morning in Engonweni, Ndwedwe, in KwaZulu-Natal on 8 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim.

South Africans woke up to cast their vote on Wednesday morning. Some voters stood in queues, while others were lucky to be in and out the polling booth within minutes. The team from Daily Maverick bring these vignettes and interviews from the field.

‘I didn’t sleep last night because I was excited’

Nwedwe, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was one of the areas identified in advance as a potential hotspot for election violence.

But at 10am on a sunny and warm Election Day, as elderly women climbed a dirt path to a voting station set among the undulating hills of Engonweni, it was hard to imagine a more peaceful setting.

We are a close-knit community, we know each other,” the presiding officer at the Engonweni Primary School voting station, Mqoqi Shabane, told Daily Maverick.

Shabane said that around 100 voters had already cast their vote here within the first three hours of the station opening on Wednesday. In total, 1,200 voters are registered at the station.

Buhle Mngadi, another elections official at the station, greeted voters with a smile and accepted their ID documents for scanning.

“We started at 7 this morning,” she confirmed to Daily Maverick.

“There’s been no violence. It’s been peaceful in this area today. Even the police will tell you.”

The school, a dilapidated building with just three classrooms and multiple broken windows, saw a steady stream of locals entering to vote when Daily Maverick visited on Wednesday morning.

Forty-something Sipho Bhengu lives in a nearby valley.

“I didn’t sleep last night because I was excited about the elections,” he told Daily Maverick.

I was excited for things to change. We have many needs in this community, such as water and electricity. We have water pipes, but the current government has corruption. They give their friends water before the rest of the community. The services go to whoever they pick first.”

Voters line up at Ngwoneni Primary School Voting Station early in the morning in Engonweni, Ndwedwe, in KwaZulu-Natal on 8 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim.

An ANC tent set up just outside the school urged voters to return the party of Cyril Ramaphosa to power: in the 2016 local government elections, this ward was won by the ANC with 62% of the vote.

But among the villagers making their way into Engonweni Primary School mid-morning, the most popular T-shirt choice was that of the IFP. – Rebecca Davis, Aisha Abdool Karim and Sandisiwe Shoba

Voters line up at Ngwoneni Primary School Voting Station early in the morning in Engonweni, Ndwedwe, in KwaZulu-Natal on 8 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim.

Low turn-out due to early morning Cape downpour

At the Observatory Junior School in Cape Town,things were very quiet first thing in the morning as the weather no doubt played a role in low turn-out. Presiding officer Bernice Kroukamp has worked elections for over a decade and said the morning is usually the busiest time of the day and there are always significant queues at this time. But there were no lines of voters here early today with the rain continuing to fall through the morning.

Still, a number of voters said they never considered not voting today, especially in an election that feels “especially important”.

Observatory voting station, Cape Town, 8 May, 2019. Photo: JONAH DYLAN

Voters said they were prioritising a number of things with their votes, specifically corruption, service delivery and track record. Improving living conditions for all South Africans was also at the top of many voters’ priorities.

Kroukamp said many voters who are not registered at this polling station have ended up here because of convenience in the bad weather. Meanwhile, as the morning drags on and there are still no queues, IEC staff have taken the opportunity to cast their own votes. DM By Jonah Dylan

Mothers & their babies join the queue for right to vote

Hundreds of people cast their votes in Region 1 at Almont Technical High in Soweto. People of all ages turned up as some mothers brought their children along. Pinky Fry, 38, from Protea brought her baby along because she has no one to look after her while she was away. It was a very cold morning with temperatures around 20 degrees, and Fry had her baby tightly strapped to her back. “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for me to exercise my right to vote,” she said. Fry said she was not voting because she expected some form of return. She said she was voting purely as a means to exercise her all-important right.

You sorted now,” said a man who was standing idly at the exit end. “I am,” said the other older man who had just voted. “Number one,” said the idler. “Number one,” responded the voter. Both men could smell, and almost touch the aura of the occasion.

Soon after three men walked into the polling station. They donned matching T-shirts and bags reading “election observers”. They went from room to room where voting was already under way.

There were no major disruptions at the station except a few disturbing incidents. One of the ANC Quantum minibus taxis dropped off two paralysed people at the gate to the school and drove off leaving them without anyone to assist them into the voting station which is about 100m away, with steps along the way.

It took a long time before a presiding officer came out to try and assist. “I would be immediately arrested if I took out the ballot here,” protested the presiding officer. DM – Bheki Simelane

Early morning glitch in the ‘burbs

At Westerford High school in Claremont, Cape Town,the voting lines came to a halt for about 20 minutes first thing in the morning when the ballot papers ran out.

My daughter helped me pack the boxes (of ballot papers) and she accidentally put them into her car,” said Magadeline Hendricks, the presiding officer. After 20 minutes of waiting, three IEC staff members ran to a blue Toyota Corolla and came out carrying the sealed boxes of paper ballots. “We’ve sorted it out now”, Hendricks told Daily Maverick– Karabo Mafolo

‘Everything was working perfectly, till the scanner stopped working’

The IEC centre in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, Cape Town managed to get 303 people through its doors this morning before their scanner stopped working.

Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, on Wednesday morning. Photo: Karabo Mafolo

IEC providing officer Lydia Mondi told Daily Maverick:  “Everything was working perfectly, but now I can’t charge the scanner. We have been told to wait for another one”.

Despite technical difficulties, voters in the Hout Bay township were undeterred. Party booths lined the streets outside the voting centre, with ANC supporters dancing in the road from the start of the day. Two hours after voting commenced, a group of EFF supporters arrived with speakers and banners.

We want jobs, that’s all. Because with jobs you can do a lot, and a lot of people don’t have jobs in this country,” said Siyanda Mbila, a voter who lives in Imizamo Yethu.

A Black First Land First supporter, Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, Wednesday 8 May, 2019. Photo: Karabo Mafolo

Mbila did not have to wait long to vote, as Mondi and her team chose to keep their doors open and manually check if people were registered.

And nearby in Hangberg, an IEC official suffered an epileptic fit at around 11am. DM  Tessa Knight and Karabo Mafolo

A view from a volunteer in the hot spot of Alexandra

Sam Gama is an IEC Presiding Officer at Woman for Peace Community Centre on 99, 8th Avenue in Alexandra, Gauteng.

He has decided to use two classrooms as voting station. The first class is for voters with surnames which start with letters A – MOD and the second class is for voters with surnames starting from MOE – Z.

It’s Gala’s second time volunteering for the IEC. He first started in 2016 and worked as a queue marshall and inker. Now he has been promoted to Presiding officer and has 18 staff members under him.

Sam Gama, IEC presiding officer at the Women for Peace Community Centre voting station in Alexandra, was busy organising staff on election day. Photo: Greg Nicolson
Voters wait in line at M.C. Weiller L.P. School in Alexandra on election day. Photo: Greg Nicolson

In each classroom, he has placed two as door controllers, and two volunteers as inkers, two to check the voters roll, two to hand out the ballot box to voters. He also has two deputy presiding officers to help him with the workload.

By 5 am Gama and his staff had arrived at the station and started preparing. According to Gama, about 20 people had already queued up before the voting station opened.

When voters arrive at the station, they are greeted with a queue walker who scans their ID to check if they are registered and which voting station they are supposed to be. Although in the national elections voters can vote in any station for national ballot, they must vote in the province they registered at for the provincial ballot.

Gama decided to volunteer for the IEC after a friend informed him that the local IEC office in Alexandra was looking for volunteers in 2014. He submitted his CV because he realised the importance of elections and wanted to make sure they are “fair and square”.

The IEC later called him in for two-day training.

On Monday and Tuesday, Gama was presiding over the special votes in an old age home in Alexandra. He had to assist the elderly who are blind and some who cannot write to tick on the ballot in the presence of party agents to ensure it is fair.

In his day job, Gama works as a motivational speaker and does “corporate gigs” where he is hired to motivate and train company staff.

Gama says it is going to be a long day. In his experience, they usually finish counting votes by 3am. DM– Nkateko Mabasa

The presiding officer at M.C. Weiller L.P. School in Alexandra scanned ID documents as voters waited in line on election day. Photo: Greg Nicolson

 ‘I’ve always voted since 1994 until today’

Greenhouse People’s Environmental Centre in Joubert Park, Johannesburg is expecting a turn-out of 12,000 plus voters according to the voter registration numbers. Speaking to Daily Maverick, the presi

ding officer Jacob Ndlovu said that “509 ballots have been cast nationally so far with 591 provincial ballots”.

The mood is quite sombre with people looking as though they just want to make their mark and leave. One voter, Nkosinathi Mhlanga said “Voting is my right. I’ve always voted since 1994 until today”. Mhlanga alluded to the difference in voting then and now.

“In 1994 people were happy about voting. The queues were long, but now it’s different. Then we had one aim, we wanted freedom for South Africa and that’s all. But now we are voting for different reasons and different parties.”

Gugu Njontini said she is voting on behalf of all deaf people so that government can provide job opportunities for them.

“All we want as deaf people is jobs. We cannot rely on grant money only. And that’s why I’m hoping my vote will bring that change.”

Njontini said she was not born deaf, she worked at a mine as a security surveillance officer and became deaf due to mine blasts.

Ndlovu, the presiding officer, said “the energy levels of staff members so far are well. I have a total of 51 staff members currently”. DM Ayanda Mthethwa

‘All the parties are scared of the EFF’

Khensani Shuma is an EFF voting agent and branch organiser Ward 44, Braamfischer, Moses Kotane Primary School, Phase 1 in Gauteng.

EFF voting agent Khensani Shuma. Photo: Lelethu Tonisi

Shuma said the EFF has leadership groups in different branches/wards around Braamfischer. Party agents volunteer within leadership groups. Every voting district has 10 party agents stationed outside the voting stations. Voting agents are tasked with checking for any disturbances or cheating during the voting process. For instance, a person using more than one ballot paper to vote or causing disruptions. Once such a person is caught they will be apprehended by police officers present at the voting stations.

Khensani Shuma says that so far everything has been running swiftly. “I decided to volunteer because I love the EFF and as you can see all the other parties are scared of the EFF’s presence here today,” she said. DM Lelethu Tonisi

No party regalia allowed in the voting booths

Sibusiso Khanyi is ANC deputy chairperson of the Obet Musiyane Branch in Braamfischerand VD (voting district) co-ordinator FOR. Every voting station will send volunteers to the ANC and the ANC sends them for training where they are familiarised with IEC  rules.

The ANC’s Sibusiso Khanyi outside the polling booths, May 8, 2019. Photo: Lelethu Tonisi

Khanyi said that party agents deal mostly with statistics. “They record the number of people that gave come to vote and relay those statistics to our operations centre. The statistics are then collated and sent to all the other provincial structures, your zonal, regional, and eventually national,” he said. The ANC party agents are not allowed to wear party regalia inside the voting station and Khanyi said they play more of an “observing role”. DM Lelethu Tonisi

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