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South Africa: IEC official suspended over roadside ballot boxes

A South African opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) member casts his vote at the federal congress in Pretoria on April 8, 2018. (Photo by GULSHAN KHAN / AFP)

PRETORIA – The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the official responsible for transporting ballot boxes found on the side of a Limpopo road at the weekend has been suspended.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the IEC confirmed that a pack of three unused, unassembled ballot boxes was discovered on the side of a road in Tzaneen, Limpopo. Videos of the boxes were posed on Sunday by a Facebook user, who went back on Monday morning and found they were still there.

According to the IEC, it was found that the ballot boxes – which were “unused” and “unassembled” – had been lost off the back of a vehicle during transport to a voting station.

“Fortunately there is no risk to the elections as the boxes were unused and there are many safeguards to protect the integrity of the elections. However, such incidents are highly regrettable as they serve to undermine the faith of the public and stakeholders in the process,” chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said.

With that, the official responsible for transporting the ballot boxes was not off the hook.

“The crucial importance of transporting all election material safely and securely before, during and after the elections has been stressed to all election officials and an internal case of negligence and bringing the IEC into disrepute is being investigated against the official concerned. The official has been suspended pending the outcome,” the IEC statement said.

The commission also confirmed that voting stations in Ginsberg, outside King William’s Town, and in Idutywa – both in the Eastern Cape – encountered problems. There, election staff and voters were prevented from conducting voting due to community unrest.

“The matter has been reported to the police to investigate. It is a criminal offence to interfere with the duties of election. Police have warned that any disruptions to the elections will not be tolerated and an increased police presence is planned for areas where protest and civil unrest is anticipated,” the statement said.

However despite these glitches, the IEC said it was “satisfied overall” with how the first day of special voting went.

“Reports showed that with the exception of a handful of minor incidents, special voting proceeded as planned,” the statement read.

Mamabolo added: “As a test run of our planning and preparations, today was a very solid and encouraging start. It has given us the opportunity to put our plans, systems and logistics to the test and see where we may need to focus our attention on Wednesday.” Sowetan

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