The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has expressed satisfaction at the progress of the 2021 Local Government Elections.

This as 3.5 million votes were cast by 12.30pm on Election Day on 1 November.

This was despite a handful of voting station operations being hampered by inclement weather, community protests and power outages, as well as others opening late.

This was on Monday revealed by IE chairperson, Glen Mashinini, during a press briefing on the progress of the 2021 Local Government Elections. He expressed satisfaction at how the polls were progressing.

By 12.30pm, 99% of the 23 148 voting stations had opened without incident.

“Many voting stations have reported a strong turnout from early in the day, with many voters already waiting to vote before the 7am opening. We continue to urge registered voters to make their way to voting stations.”

In general, Mashinini said, voting was progressing well across the country. In addition, logistical arrangements, as well as the voter management devices, are holding up well.

“As at 12.30pm, over 3.5 million voters had already voted. We are able to report this because of the use of the voter management devices. The Commission is therefore satisfied with the voting process. As with any event of this magnitude involving 23 000 service points, there have been incidents which have been reported,” said Mashinini.

Among these were 20 voting stations that did not open on time due to community protests in Camperdown and Mdlothi in KwaZulu-Natal.

With assistance from security services, the stations have since opened.

Earlier, a presiding officer was arrested in the eThekwini Metro after allegedly stuffing marked ballots into a ballot box. The matter is now being investigated by the police.

In the Eastern Cape, 19 voting stations also did not open on time due to community protests.

“In all incidents, communities dug trenches to deny Commission staff and voters access to the voting stations. The Commission, with the assistance of municipalities, was able fill the trenches and anticipates that the voting stations will be open later today,” said Mashinini.

In Limpopo, a hailstorm delayed the opening of voting stations in Giyani.

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

In Modimolle, Limpopo, an accredited observer was asked to leave a voting station for wearing a political party t-shirt. A process to withdraw the observer’s accreditation was initiated.

In Moretele, North West, a member of a political party was arrested after he interrupted the voting process. In Taung, in the same province, the Commission had to lay charges against a presiding officer after he opened a ballot box that had been sealed.

The IEC expressed regret at the arrest of a Newzroom Afrika journalist at a voting station in Soweto.

“After the intervention of the Commission, the journalist has been released and an investigation into the circumstances of his arrest will be instituted,” said Mashinini.

He also confirmed reports of isolated cases where voters were stopped from entering voting stations by election staff for wearing political party clothing and regalia. Mashinini clarified that this should have not happened, saying only party agents were prohibited from this.

The IEC reiterated that while voting stations would close at 9pm, voters who were at the voting station or in a queue at the time would be allowed to vote.

Source: South African Government News Agency