The civil rights organisation AfriForum will submit a comprehensive report to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to highlight concerns on specific issues experienced during the 2021 local elections on 1 November. AfriForum was one of the largest organisations that observed the election.
Dr Eugene Brink, strategic advisor for Community Structures and coordinator of AfriForum’s observers, says there were more challenges than in the 2019 national election. “In most places the election went on normally, but there were definitely more problems this year than in 2019. We also received a considerable number of complaints from the public regarding their voting frustrations.
“One of the biggest challenges was certainly that some people were registered at certain places, but their names were not on the electoral roll. Many of them have been voting at a particular voting station for years and many of them registered again because they relocated or were first time voters. Especially those who registered during the September registration weekend experienced problems. The presiding officer at a voting station in Potchefstroom approached our observer on how to remedy a situation and was therefore not properly trained to handle such foreseeable situations.”
AfriForum’s observer in Kroonstad indicated that staff appeared totally unprepared regarding the voting procedure and at a voting station in Waverley, Pretoria, staff started to strike later in the day over contracts and refreshments. In Sasolburg, many people who registered or re-registered in September could not vote at all. “This raises questions about the IEC’s overall readiness and training of staff before the election.”
According to Brink, the systems were also often offline and ballot papers ran out. “Pierre van Ryneveld in Centurion is one example where ballot papers were not enough, which has never happened there before. In Fochville the system was off twice for about ten minutes at a time and in the Mooi River region there was no proper support if the systems did not work.
“Compliance with COVID-19 protocols was also erratic with certain voting stations’ staff who strictly adhered to it and others not. There were also complaints in Krugersdorp and other areas where special votes could not be cast due to the absence of the IEC or a lack of envelopes.”
Brink says AfriForum will investigate the matter further and compile the findings in a report to the IEC. “Although we are living in abnormal times with the pandemic, which has obviously also complicated the IEC’s task, so many mistakes can simply not be afforded. In some cases, this deprives people and communities of the right to choose who their elected representatives are. The voting percentage in this election is estimated to be very low and such problems erode confidence in political processes more and more.”