Poll-axed: South Africans cast their vote on politics by staying at home

By 6pm on Monday 6.9-million people had voted, with observers saying preliminary figures seemed low

The voting station at Ekhiyeni Primary School in Mpumalanga wasn't exactly full.
PURPLE PATCH The voting station at Ekhiyeni Primary School in Mpumalanga wasn't exactly full.
Image: Alaister Russell

A largely uninspired electorate came out in dribs and drabs on Monday to vote in key local government elections that are likely to see traditional rivals forced to work together across the country. 

All eyes will now be fixed on the IEC results centre to see who will take charge of the country’s big metros.

Negotiations between parties to form coalition governments are expected to start soon in metros where no party gets an outright majority. Those likely to see hung councils include Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Gqeberha.

On Monday afternoon ANC leaders expressed optimism that the ruling party would fare well in Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, but even they expected a hung council in Johannesburg.

“We certainly campaigned to win and we know we’re doing well in Tshwane. We’re definitely doing well in Ekurhuleni and we’re still waiting for results from other areas, but so far so good,” said ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.

A voting station at a school in Seshego, Limpopo.
A voting station at a school in Seshego, Limpopo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Despite community protests, bad weather and power outages in parts of the country, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expressed satisfaction with the day’s events.

By 6pm on Monday, the IEC's figures showed that 6,898,183 voters had come out to cast their ballots across SA - and this out of a total 26.2-million voters. That translated to a national turnout of 26.32%. In 2016, the turnout was 57.94%, or 15,290,820 people out of 26,333,353 registered voters.

Low voter turnout across SA, IEC figures show

According to IEC figures from 6pm Monday, not a single province had yet recorded higher than 29% voter turnout.

- Eastern Cape: 24.27%
- Free State: 27.37%
- Gauteng: 27.17%
- KwaZulu-Natal: 27.15%
- Mpumalanga: 23.73%
- Northern Cape: 28.37%
- Limpopo: 26.18%
- North West: 23.37%
- Western Cape: 27.54%

Final turnout numbers would only be available after election day, but observers said preliminary numbers seemed low.

It was not smooth sailing in some parts of the country, with tensions breaking out in areas such as Mamelodi East’s ward 93 voting station at Life Giving Ministries, where non-registered voters tried to force their way in.

Tshwane Metro Police and SAPS formed a perimeter around the venue to protect IEC officials and voters as scores of people, who claimed not to have been allowed to register, tried to get in.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 20 voting stations did not open on time because of community protests in Camperdown and Mdloti. The IEC said the stations opened later after security services intervened. It reported that a presiding officer in eThekwini was arrested after allegedly stuffing marked ballots into a ballot box.

“The matter is now in the hands of the police. This incident, which did not affect voting, is a testament to the inbuilt safeguards in the voting process, that also include an active role for party and independent candidate agents,” the IEC said.

Protests also delayed the opening of 19 voting stations, as community members dug trenches to deny IEC staff and voters access to the venues.

The IEC said it filled the trenches with the help of municipalities and anticipated the voting stations would open later.

Inclement weather in Cape Town delayed the opening of more than a dozen voting stations.

IEC Western Cape head Michael Hendrickse said 19 of the province’s 1,577 voting stations did not open on time due to rain in the city. The commission first had to ensure the safety of temporary voting station structures, he said.

“The one impact we have experienced is the weather, and the rain is especially affecting our operations in tents,” said Hendrickse.

“Overall, outside the metro voting is proceeding well. People are turning up, but we are watching the weather closely.”

Hendrickse said rain and wind threatened the stability of 35 IEC tents in the province, mostly in Cape Town.

Some were in areas prone to flooding, mainly Site B in Khayelitsha, Marikana, Philippi East and Macassar.

Meanwhile, hail delayed the opening of voting stations in Giyani, Limpopo.

While there was no load-shedding, power supply disruptions impacted voting in some parts of Limpopo and the Northern Cape, it said.

Former president Jacob Zuma has his thumb inked before casting his vote at Ntolwane Primary School in KwaNxamalala, KwaZulu-Natal.
MARKED MAN Former president Jacob Zuma has his thumb inked before casting his vote at Ntolwane Primary School in KwaNxamalala, KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Election day also saw Jacob Zuma out in public for the first time since his release on medical parole in September.

The former president, who has clashed with the ANC leadership, called on party members not to be swayed by political bickering among those jostling for positions of power, adding that it was more important to vote for the ANC.

Zuma was speaking outside Ntolwane Primary School in his ancestral village of KwaNxamalala in KwaZulu-Natal after casting his vote.

“They must not be swayed by individuals as individuals are not important in the ANC, but are important because they become they are part of this organisation,” he said.

Zuma took the opportunity to call on everyone to “go out and vote, voting is very important”.

He reiterated that his vote went to the ANC and that he was happy to have made his mark.

He called on anyone seeking to punish the ANC at the polls by abstaining or voting for another party to “stop that and go vote for the ANC”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa voted at Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto.

Ramaphosa, accompanied by first lady Tshepo Motsepe, said he was delighted at the culmination of the election campaign.

“It’s been a few weeks of real hard work, but I’m glad many South Africans are seemingly excited to exercise their democratic right.

“I went on my usual walk this morning and a number of people I met in the streets were saying they are on their way to vote, and this was early as 6.30am. There is a great deal of excitement,” he said.

* Sunday Times Daily and TimesLIVE had reporters deployed across the country to capture election day. Read a compilation of the stories below.


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