Big crowds a feature as South Africans line up to vote

  • Queues around voting stations have been a feature of the elections, midway through Wednesday. 
  • There have also been reports of voting stations in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State opening late. 
  • Find everything you need to know about the 2024 general elections on News24’s Elections Hub.

The start of the highly anticipated election day has been characterised by long queues snaking around suburban blocks, as South Africans lined up to vote.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) expects the turnout in these elections to top the 66% of the 2019 elections. 

The IEC was happy that the elections got off to a “steady start”, according to deputy chief electoral officer Masego Sheburi, who briefed the media at the National Results Operation Centre (ROC) at Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg. 

He said an “overwhelming majority” of voting stations – 93% – were open both online and physically at the starting time of 07:00. The remainder of the voting stations opened soon thereafter. 

“There were a number of voting stations that delayed opening because of late delivery of materials, delayed escorts by security services, or protests by certain community members. In most stations, queues had formed even before the stations opened. This is testament to the enthusiasm of South Africans to record their political choices,” he said. 

“At 12:00, election operations around the country reported good progress with minimal incidents reported.”

He said the commission wanted to assure voters that adequate supplies of all materials, including more than 90 million ballot papers, were available and that every voter would be assisted to vote. 

Masego Sheburi

IEC deputy electoral officer Masego Sheburi addressed the media that national results operations centre (ROC) in Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon. (Jan Gerber/News24)

“The Commission further urges voters in the queues to be patient, as traditionally, voting queues peak early as voters often seek to vote first thing during the day. Where there were difficulties with our voter management device, instructions were issued for voting to proceed on the manual voters’ roll.”

He further explained that the manual voting process is required by law, and the voter management device (VMD) is used to ease the process. Sheburi said that the integrity of the vote is not affected when the VMD is not used. 

While the long queues signals great interest in the elections, News24’s reporters on the ground also came across some problems.

There have been some reports that voting material had not arrived at voting stations on time, like the voting stations at City Power in Randburg, the nearby Craighall Primary, and Blairgowrie Recreation Centre. 

There was also a mishap at the Bloemfontein South High School voting station, where voters said they only received two, instead of three, ballots. 

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Christian Lombard, a representative of the FF Plus, told News24 that he was being inundated with messages and calls from worried residents regarding the issue with the ballot papers.

Free State IEC spokesperson Mmathabo Rasengane said: “We are investigating the matter, it was brought to our attention.”

Earlier, officials barred the media from covering the voting inside the station, but later granted permission after the area manager consulted his superiors.

Nine voting stations in the Eastern Cape didn’t open on time due to protests, according to Eastern Cape IEC electoral officer Kayakazi Magudumana.

ROLLING COVERAGE | IEC gives elections 2024 update amid delays, ballot issues and snaking queues

It also appeared that several voting stations in the Free State opened very late. 

In the Western Cape, some of the province’s 1 572 voting stations opened late, but the last ones opened by 07:45, according to Western Cape IEC electoral officer Michael Hendrickse. 

Furthermore, not all Voter Management Devices were working at Western Cape voting stations. 

He said staff had been briefed on how to reboot the system and revert to the hard copy voters’ roll in cases where the reboot fails.

He added that staff had also been prepared to deal with any delays caused by the glitches and that “voting will continue until the last person in the queue has been assisted”.

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Long queues spotted at the voting station at Rhodes High School in Mowbray, Cape Town. (Jenna Verster/News24)

In North West, the police arrested three women for obstructing the IEC’s work. According to a police spokesperson, the women went to a voting station at Bosugakobo Primary School, where they blocked the entrance, demanding the removal of the presiding officer.

Also in North West, the police had to disperse a group of about 50 people at Shaleng Village in Taung as “their presence could threaten other voters to stay away from voting. It was subtle intimidation”, according to a SAPS spokesperson. 

However, shortly after 09:00, Police Minister Bheki Cele said election day had kicked off smoothly throughout the country on Wednesday. Cele was speaking after he voted in Lamontville, south of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal.

Cele said:

We have scanned the country this morning and up to this point, it doesn’t look like we have a major problem except somewhere in the Eastern Cape where one of the stations has been closed.

Cele said they have sent more police officers to a voting station in the Eastern Cape, where the IEC had withdrawn their staff. He expected the rest of the day to proceed smoothly.

The ANC has issued a statement welcoming the “smooth start to voting across the country”.

“Reports received from across the country indicate that the overwhelming majority of voting stations opened on time and that voting is proceeding,” spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said.

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“Reports also indicate that in most instances, voters are able to vote quickly and queues are being managed efficiently.

“Where voting stations experience challenges with the Voting Management Devices (VMDs), voting should proceed using the paper-based copies of the voters’ roll.”

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