South Africa

2024 ELECTIONS

IEC anticipates high voter turnout ‘well beyond’ that of 2019 as voters line up across SA

IEC anticipates high voter turnout ‘well beyond’ that of 2019 as voters line up across SA
A voter places her vote in the ballot box at at Sivuyiseni Primary School in Khayelitsha. 29 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The Electoral Commission of South Africa remains bullish about turnout and smooth voting procedures, even as some voters around the country report waiting upwards of seven hours.

South Africa can expect a higher voter turnout in the 2024 elections than the country experienced in its 2019 national and provincial elections, officials from the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said on Wednesday night, 29 May.

voting

People queue at the IEC voting station in the Craighall Primary School, Johannesburg. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

The IEC said it was experiencing a “late surge” in voting when its top brass addressed the media on Wednesday at 7pm, with South Africans still casting their ballots at 23,292 voting stations around the country. 

Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the IEC was “still processing a large number of voters in certain areas, particularly the metropolitan areas in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.”

Voter turnout in the 2019 general elections was 66%. 

 

Mamabolo reiterated that all voters who arrive at the voting stations before 9pm will be allowed to vote – even if it takes beyond the closing time for them to complete the democratic process. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024 – All your questions answered

“This provision ensures that every citizen who has made an effort to be at the voting station must be allowed to vote, [and] can do so. We urge those who have not voted to use the remaining two hours to go and make their mark. Members of the [South African Police Services] SAPS will remain deployed at the voting stations to ensure the safety of voters,” Mamabolo said. 

voting Eastern Cape

Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, election day, Helenvale Primary School. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Mamabolo did not divulge the turnout as at 7pm, but said the commission was pleased with the “high turnout” at many voting stations around the country. Daily Maverick reported long queues snaking around voting stations across the country on Wednesday, as millions turned up to cast their ballots. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Sick and tired of being sick and tired’ — SA casts critical votes

He said Home Affairs offices will remain open until 9pm to assist voters who want to collect or apply for temporary identity documents.  

Long queues and technical difficulties

At an earlier media briefing on Wednesday, the IEC said it would implement measures to ramp up the processing of voters in certain areas. This came after reports of delays at the start of the voting process, with ballots not being delivered on time to some voting stations and technical issues with the commission’s system. 

voting johannesburg

Police were on hand to help IEC staff when frustrations boiled over at the St Hubert Catholic Church polling station in Alexandra, Johannesburg. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

“We are pleased that our efforts are yielding results, with the length of the queues substantially reduced. The commission is also pleased to report that most glitches reported earlier have been overcome, allowing electoral officials to service voters timeously,” Mamabolo said. 

Mamabolo claimed that measures implemented to expedite the processing of voters had paid off, with “the length of queues beginning to reduce”. However, this was not the reality reflected on the ground on Wednesday night, with voters still reporting long queues in parts of the country. 

JHB

An IEC official appeals to voters to remain patient because of a failure of the digital capture system. A manual input process had to be adopted which created delays at the Blairgowrie Community Centre polling station in Johannesburg. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Daily Maverick has heard reports from party agents that their turnout modelling is showing a much lower number than the IEC has purported, as darkness and cold begins to take hold and certain areas become increasingly unsafe. 

“We are disappointed with the frustrations caused by issues relating to voter management devices [VMDs], ballot paper shortages, ballot box shortages, long queues and other issues with the IEC’s systems, that have led to queues of as long as six hours. We have had meetings with the IEC in the build-up to this election raising concerns about the VMDs and their efficacy, which has led to much frustration for voters,” DA deputy federal leader Ashor Sarupen told Daily Maverick

voting Eastern Cape

Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, election day, Helenvale Primary School. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Build One South Africa (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane encouraged those who were already in the voting queues not to give up, as they would be assisted.

“It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark, but this is about our democracy. Because if you are going to postpone until tomorrow, ballots will be tampered with, they will not be safe,” he said.

“I have raised before that there cannot be security risks that pertain to this election. It’s not only about violence in the streets but the protection of ballots. I think we need to persevere and we need to avail more police on the ground to ensure that voters exercise their right to vote,” he said. 

voting johannesburg

A woman is assisted by an IEC staff member while casting her vote at the St Hubert Catholic Church in Alexandra, Johannesburg. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Following queries from journalists on Wednesday about reports of SAPS officers leaving voting facilities early, Mamabolo said law enforcement officers were expected to remain at voting stations until the voting process had concluded. 

“If there are police withdrawing … then it is not the plan. The plan is that police stay at the station until everybody is served and until the counting process is concluded.”

DA MP Werner Horn had concerns about voters leaving stations before voting. 

Eastern Cape

Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, election day at Swartkops Primary School on 29 May 2024. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“Unfortunately the downside was the long queues at the voting stations, particularly at the big voting stations countrywide. I think closely linked is the inability of the IEC to get the message that the voter management devices could be put aside as they slow down the processes. 

“That has led to voter frustrations with some voters telling us that they are leaving the queue, and now it’s our responsibility to get them back,” he said.

voting Ekurhuleni

A Woolf informal settlement resident in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, on his way to cast his vote on 29 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Read more in Daily Maverick: It’s D-Day to have your say — South Africans get in line to make their mark

Correctional facilities 

By 7pm, Mamabolo said voting at all correctional facilities across the country had been completed. According to a statement by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, 17,129 inmates had registered to vote at correctional facilities in South Africa, with Kgoši Mampuru 2 recording the largest number (2,908) of registered inmate voters. DM

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