Cold and thirsty Joburg voters wait after midnight to cast their votes

30 May 2024 - 08:57
Gauteng legislature voting station had a huge voter turnout as thousands of people waited in snaking queues for an average of six to seven hours.
Image: Thabo Tshabalala Gauteng legislature voting station had a huge voter turnout as thousands of people waited in snaking queues for an average of six to seven hours.

Cold, hungry and thirsty, scores of voters deprived themselves of sleep as they waited undeterred outside the Gauteng legislature in Johannesburg after midnight to cast their votes. 

The voting station had a huge voter turnout as thousands of people waited in snaking queues for an average of six to seven hours — including those who joined the lines after knocking off work. 

Eric Futshane put on a brave face as he waited more than seven hours to cast his vote before having to walk through the Johannesburg CBD at night to take a taxi to Katlehong. 

The 56-year-old endured the wait, saying: “I am voting for the future of my children.

“I used to stay here [Johannesburg] but I recently moved and I did not change my voting station. I did not think the lines would be this long. I have been waiting for seven hours because I know that to cast your vote is a good thing to do for the future of my children.”

Sihle Dlamini, who arrived at the station at 7.30pm, walked out of the station with a smile after casting her vote at midnight.

“I waited in the dark and cold because I wanted something right for the country. We are struggling [with] poverty and unemployment. That is why I am here and I managed to wait for hours, I do not mind because I wanted to vote,” the 31-year-old told TimesLIVE. 

After voting she waited outside for an e-hailing taxi to take her home. There were, however, other voters who were not so fortunate. Some of the voters' phones had died due to waiting outside so long and were forced to plead with the police to escort them home at about 1am.

While some people who waited for hours at the station walked away with the satisfaction of voting, this was not the case for Hlulani Ngobeni who was told at midnight she was at the wrong station.

“I had checked on the system and it had shown that I vote in Johannesburg district but I did not really understand how that works. I understood it to be saying I vote here because I have been voting here since 2019. When we got there [to the front of the queue] at about midnight they told me and my husband this is not our voting station and said there is nothing they can do. No one from IEC helped us check when we were in the lines,” she said. 

Ngobeni said she had initially registered in Soweto in the early 2000s but moved to Johannesburg and in 2019 voted in the Gauteng legislature building.

Since 2019 we have been voting here, but today they rejected us here saying our voting station is in Soweto. In 2019 we registered manually here and voted here, but now they say we are not on the system. What were they doing before to allow us to vote here? Why did they not tell us? It is painful that we just wasted our time,” she said. 

“The official told me there is a lot of people who went back like us. How many people did not cast their votes and how is this affecting voting? Who is voting if we are not voting?

“I believe IEC needs to do something about this. I sacrificed a lot to be here. If I knew we were registered to vote in Soweto, we would have went there. Tomorrow they will say, 'South African citizens do not care and they do not want to vote'. We are willing to vote but the treatment we are getting is not right.” 

Sesona Buyeye, 25, bought pizza and had dinner at the voting station as she waited patiently for six hours to vote. 

“I had dinner at the station. I got here at 4pm and I did not prepare for the long queues, I thought coming here later, the lines would not be long. But the queue did not deter me because seeing so many young people at the station is so encouraging. I feel that as young people we tend to have a helplessness mindset and we forget that young people are the ones who fought for our freedom. It is encouraging to see that they are here. 

“I want the governing party out. It has been in power for 30 years and they have not shown why they need to stay in power. They had 30 years to deliver services. That is what I am voting for,” she said.

Another voter, Petronella Mashigo, was relieved when she cast her vote after midnight.

“We have been waiting since 7pm and it is now 12.30am. It is very cold. I wish they could introduce online voting. It is better than queuing here. I voted for change. I think it is about time we give other parties a chance,” she said. 

When TimesLIVE left the station at 1.10am, about 20 people were still waiting inside the building to cast their votes.