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Observers give feedback on SA elections

Written by More Matshediso and Silusapho Nyanda

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, says the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has worked hard to deliver this year’s National and Provincial Elections. 

He gave the media a preliminary feedback on the foundation’s role as an observer of the 2019 general elections. 

He said the foundation has not yet been able to go through all observer reports, which will be released in the next 30 days.

Hatang said the foundation holds the view that the elections represented the wishes of the late former President Nelson Mandela. 

“The staff members at the ground level also did a sterling job during this elections,” he added. 

Hatang commended political parties and party agents for observing the rules relating to the elections, although he admitted that there were few exceptions.

He said the foundation identified the following concerns:

  • Orientation of the voting booths - “It did not give a sense of secrecy during the ballot marking process. In almost every station we observed people complained about the new ATM style booths,” he explained.
  • The issue of voting stations not opening on time - “There were a number of stations that opened late, but all of them opened although some were late,” he added. 
  • Delays caused at multiple stations - “The scanners were some of the resources that caused delays and people were made to wait. Insufficient ballot papers were also concerning. Some stations ran-out of ballot papers within the first hour of opening, which showed there was no proper planning in that regard,” he said.

Hatang raised concerns about how the needs of the elderly and people living with disabilities were accommodated. He said at some stations these voters were made to follow the queue.

He said while the integrity of the 2019 general elections is secure, the election process has areas of vulnerability and, moving forward, work needs to be done to improve those areas. 

“We will be making recommendations to the IEC,” added Hatang. 

Reflecting on the low levels of participation in this year’s elections he said:

“This says something about people having lost hope in democracy. There are many reasons why people did not come through but we need to bring back those long queues [witnessed in the 1994 elections] because they tell us that people believe that the democracy of their country is not captured.” 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation had 41 observers on the ground, who were based in Gauteng.  

Former Nigerian President and Head of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), Goodluck Jonathan, also weighed in on the elections.

Jonathan said EISA is satisfied that the elections had been free and fair with all parties adhering to the laws set out in the Electoral Act.