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Late night voting chaos as thousands vote into Thursday after IEC voter devices glitch

Written by on May 30, 2024

Thousands of voters around the country were still in queues after 12am on Thursday waiting to cast their votes after the May 29 elections were rocked by snaking queues around the country, particularly in the metros of Durban, Joburg and Cape Town.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa insisted during a press conference on Wednesday night that all voting take place and conclude, bemoaning the logistical nightmare and security of millions of ballots should an extra day be required for voting.

Device Drama

The seismic delays stemmed from the voter management devices (VMDs) which persistently glitched at several municipalities around the country as voters queued to cast their vote.

Around 2pm on Wednesday, the IEC sent a circular to presiding officers and area managers, instructing them to ditch the VMDs and to utilise the manual ballot roll if the devices were seen to be more obstructive than helpful to the work of the IEC.

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the devices were not legislated by law and were not a requirement in terms of the electoral act, but the manual system of the ballot roll was legislated. IEC volunteers manning the elections said the VMDs – when they worked – were more efficient than the manual system.

The result, by 9.52pm voting stations such as the Hunters Hill Fire Station voting station in North Riding, were still packed with potential voters who braved the cold winter weather to cast their vote.

Police officers manned the gate by 9pm and did not allow any more people into the voting station.

The IEC’s presiding officer at the Hunters Hill voting station, Reginald Kubeka, was wilting when interviewed around 10pm on Wednesday night.

He said the voting district had experienced snaking queues all day and that the devices had been “on and off”, compounding the situation for them.

Kubeka said he had been up since 4am and had been on his feet the whole day.

After casting the final vote, Kubeka and his team were then expected to start counting over 23,000 votes cast at the station in the past three days, including the special ballot.

“We had queues going up the road, very long queues. I can say that the VMDs are on and off, so we have to run manually, which is unlike the VMDs where you just click and scan,” he said.

Kubeka explained that when the VMDs were in use and operating efficiently, the queues moved much faster, as the physical checking of votes on the manual method took more time for the officials and caused delays.

Kubeka also remarked that the voter turnout was “very big” this year.

On the morale of his staff, he said: “People are exhausted, we are running on empty but we are trying to push the queue as quickly as we can”.

They are expected to be counting votes well into the morning.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress, Economic Freedom Fighters and Umkhonto Wesizwe Party were amongst parties to make a late dart to try and secure some “queue votes”.

The Gauteng ANC deployed its provincial secretary TK Nciza and former Fees Must Fall activist Nompendulo Mkhatshwa to Wits University to implore students to stay in the queue until they cast their votes.

The EFF offered coffee and fruits to voters who were still in queues at several voting stations.

The party also released a video just before 9pm where EFF leader Julius Malema was calling on those still stuck in queues to keep their heads up and vote.

He said in his message: “To the young people of South Africa that came out in their numbers, this is your future.

“We are only going to do it just today and we secure a future for the next five years, don’t go home, stay in the queues, the IEC is not allowed to turn anyone away who is in the queue.

“I know some of you waited for more than seven hours, some of you waited for more than 10 hours, but that is what happens when a good thing is about to come out, it goes through a very painful process.

Do not get discouraged, youth of South Africa, remain in the queues,” he said.

MK Party leader Jacob Zuma also made a last bid attempt through a video message to urge people to go out and vote to regain power through the MK Party.

He urged supporters to “don’t dare make a mistake” by not voting.

Last in the queue

Back at the queue at the North Riding voting station, Ntokozo Mkhwanazi, who was the last person in the queue, made it to the voting station at exactly 9pm.

“I didn’t even know where Hunters Hill was and my battery died, but I eventually found it.

“I’m here for a reason, I was thinking about it earlier, I’m not even sure who I want to vote for, but I want to vote so we will see how it goes, but my reason for voting is for change,” said Mkhwanazi.

Another voter, Larchelle Broll, who was at the voting station with her husband and a grandkid, said they had monitored news on social media about how full the voting station was. They eventually turned up at the voting station just before 9pm to cast their vote.

“We saw them closing the gate and we thought we better run. I feel great and I am glad that we made it, we’ve had fun chatting with the people.

“It means so much to be able to vote, hopefully we can have great change, that’s what I am praying for, for things that work and a future for the grandkids. You want everything to work and for everyone to be happy,” she said.

Meanwhile, the results of the first tinier voting stations have started filtering through.

As at 6am, with 0.94% of the voting count, the ANC had the lead with just under 25,000 votes (53.68%), the DA had just over 9,300 votes (20.26%), 3,600 for the EFF (7.79%) and 2,300 for the MK (5.15%).

The post Late night voting chaos as thousands vote into Thursday after IEC voter devices glitch appeared first on The Namibian.

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