National Results Operations Centre, Tshwane – The first votes in the 2016 Municipal Elections were cast from 08h00 today as voters who had applied for special votes began casting their ballots at voting stations and home visits around the country.
Reports from Provincial Electoral Officers showed that special voting got off to a smooth and steady start with the vast majority of voting stations reporting being open and ready on time and home visit teams deployed as planned.
A record 719 222 applications for special votes were approved for the elections – including 315 597 (44%) home visits and 403 625 (56%) votes to be cast at voting stations. Special voting takes places today and tomorrow between 8h00 and 17h00 at both voting stations and home visits.
In a very few instances special voting was briefly delayed and in some cases had still not got underway by 11h00 today due to a variety of circumstances.
Among the more serious incidents included:
• Motor vehicle accidents: Three election staff were involved in three separate motor vehicle accidents en route to voting stations. One in Limpopo involved the Presiding Officer of a voting station in Tubatse-Fetakgomo Municipality who was seriously injured and taken to hospital. The other two accidents – involving a Presiding Officer in Mpumalanga and an Area Manager in Edumbe (Dundee) in KwaZulu-Natal were not serious and the officials are on duty. The Electoral Commission expresses its best wishes to Presiding Officer Samual Phasha for a speedy recovery.
• Incorrect ballot papers delivered to voting stations: Four minor incidents of the incorrect ballot paper being delivered to voting stations were reported. In all cases the outer covers of the ballot books were correct but the contents were ballot papers belonging to a different ward. These were being rectified by courier where feasible or by reprinting of ballots.
• Community protest action: A few voting stations reported opening late or were still not open at 11h00 today due to community protest action which was preventing election staff gaining access to these areas (including due to trenches being dug to prevent vehicular access). These included:
o Ward 8 in Ratlou Municipality in the North West
o Ward 11 in Emfuleni, and Ward 16 in Midvaal, Gauteng
o Ward 1 in Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal
o Ward 19 in Mbizana, and Ward 6 and Ward 16 in Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape.
In Vuwani in Limpopo voting stations did not open today after the Electoral Commission yesterday decided to postpone special voting until tomorrow due to the small number of applications received in this areas – only 32 special vote applications had been received.
Among the less serious incidents which had delayed the start of special voting in a handful of areas around the country included heavy overnight rains in the Eastern Cape which had made some voting stations inaccessible and had affected other voting stations using temporary infrastructure such as tents. Some electoral staff vehicles were still stuck in mud in Elliotdale earlier today and were being towed out by tractors.
Given the record scale of the 2016 Municipal Elections, the Electoral Commission is highly satisfied with the start of special voting. Besides offering voters who cannot vote at the voting station on Wednesday an opportunity to participate, special voting also provide the Electoral Commission with an opportunity to identify and resolve any challenges ahead of Election Day on Wednesday.
With regards to complaints, the Electoral Commission had by earlier today received 28 complaints at national level related to alleged violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct.
Of these, 20 have so far been resolved through a legal process, mediation and a few closed and withdrawn due to lack of evidence. One case was referred to the Electoral Court which on Friday disqualified a ward candidate for Ward 7 in Tshwane. Votes cast for this candidate will not count.
The remaining seven case are under investigation.
ISSUED BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Ensuring free and fair elections
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