South Africa’s democracy the winner

8 May 2014

Democracy was the big winner in South Africa’s fifth free elections on Wednesday as people turned out in huge numbers, especially in the country’s urban areas, to vote in a poll that, with few exceptions, went off peacefully and efficiently.

“Today’s successful election is indeed a testament to the country’s active citizenry, which is crucial for any vibrant democracy,” Phumla Williams, acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System, said in a statement. “The nation’s fifth democratic elections have undoubtedly added to our legacy of regular and peaceful elections.”

Briefing journalists at the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) central Results Operations Centre in Pretoria on Wednesday evening, IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula said voters were continuing to come out “in their vast numbers to participate in this fifth general election.

“The most pressing challenge we are facing at the moment is an extremely high turnout at voting stations, especially those in urban and metro areas, where long queues continue to be experienced at a number of voting stations,” Tlakula said, adding: “It should be remembered that we have the highest number of registered voters [25.3-million] in South Africa’s history for these elections.”

Tlakula said the high turnout had led to some stations requiring additional ballot papers. “We are pleased to report that our contingency planning in this regard is holding up well, and materials are able to be quickly provided to voting stations where they are needed.”

The IEC had printed and distributed over 62-million ballot papers – including national and provincial ballot papers – for the elections.

The IEC said the voting process had gone smoothly at 22 363 voting stations across the country, although a few incidents of violence had been reported at isolated voting stations.

Phumla Williams said the country’s security forces have been on high alert throughout the elections period, adding that, to date, 97 people had been arrested and 131 cases registered for election-related offences.

Four people are reported to have passed away on election day. Two people died while waiting to cast their vote, while two political party agents were involved in a fatal car accident.

“We wish to convey our deepest sympathy and condolences to their families and loved ones,” Williams said.

On Thursday morning, election results were pouring in at the IEC’s National Results Operating Centre in Pretoria, with over 28 percent of votes having been counted by 7am, just 10 hours after polling stations closed at 9pm on Wednesday.

SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter