IEC ready for local elections

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in the Western Cape says it is committed to run free and fair local government elections for the millions of voters who will go to the polls today, Wednesday August 3.

At the launch of the provincial results centre at the Century City Conference Centre on Friday July 29, provincial electoral officer Courtney Sampson called for political tolerance, saying, “There are going to be very disappointed people next week this time.”

He was referring to the number of candidates contesting elections – 7869 across the Western Cape – for the 914 available seats in the different municipalities. In the City of Cape Town, there are 231 seats available, with candidates vying for 116 wards.

Nationally, there are 203 political parties taking part in the elections, 77 in the Western Cape. The proportional representation (PR) ballot paper in the province will be an A3 sheet to accommodate the increased number of candidates.

Mr Sampson said the voting stations would be turned into counting stations, and to ensure the integrity of the election, counting would be done in the presence of party agents.

“So you can see there is no attempt to interfere with the will of the people,” he said.

In the run-up to the elections, the IEC, through its 12-member mediation panel, engaged with communities where the potential for trouble had been identified. Some of the so-called hot spots include Hanover Park, Manenberg, Lavender Hill and Capricorn Park where there are fears of gang violence.

Other concerns are service delivery protests in Langa and Dunoon, candidate dissatisfaction in Marikana and Khayelitsha and unhappiness over ward demarcation in wards 95 to 97 in Marikana. Infrastructure challenges, specifically electricity, are a concern in informal settlements in Chris Hani, Philippi, Samora Machel, Marikana, Dunoon, Isiqalo and Wallacedene.

In Hout Bay, the threat of labour unrest in the fishing industry has been flagged by the IEC. There is also concern about a possible shortage of fuel because of a petroleum industry strike. The IEC manager for electoral operations, Derrick Marco, said the commission has a partnership with SAPS and the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM), and its own mediation team to deal with the risks, but there are “high levels of unpredictability” around the elections.

“But we built in Plan A, Plan B and Plan C to make sure the elections are free and fair,” said Mr Marco.

The IEC will have 17 000 staff in the field on election day. By last Friday, July 29, some of the items needed had already been moved to voting stations. “But you know security items are not moved until voting day,” said Mr Marco.

Special votes, which includes home visits for those who cannot go to the polls on voting day, took place earlier Monday and Tuesday this week. Across the province, 53 597 voters have applied to cast special votes.

IEC vice chairman Terry Tselane described this election as “one of the most difficult in the history of our country.”

This he said had been caused by questions around the voters roll, an increase in the number of political parties and independent candidates, and violence, especially intra-party fighting, which had never been an issue before.

“It is time to relook the code of conduct of political parties because it doesn’t even speak of intra-party violence,” he said. Last week, an ANC councillor was killed in Walmer in the Eastern Cape, while there’s been similar incidents in KwaZulu-Natal.