The overwhelming feedback from the More than Peace Election Observer Teams was that the positive and united spirit showed by ordinary South Africans, and even the representatives of political parties, was a joy to witness. The rain and cold could not quench their desire to positively contribute, within the boundaries of the law, to the success of these elections 25 years into democracy.
More Than Peace, a coalition of faith-based organisations working for peace and justice, was accredited by the IEC to deploy Election Observers for the #SAElections2019. We trained more than 130 observers with nearly 100 deployed on Election Day across communities in the Western Cape.
Although our experience of the elections was broadly positive, with most Polling Stations operating well and according to plan, there were a few issues we observed in multiple locations around the Western Cape.
The primary issue was caused by the numbers of voters who opted for the Section 24A provision permitting them to vote in an alternative polling station to which they were registered within the same Province.
This created significant delays and queues early on in the day which were compounded by the depletion of ballot papers and VEC 4 forms across a significant number of Polling Stations as the day progressed. The administration of the VEC 4 forms added stress to the Presiding officers and staff. We observed their exhaustion as the day wore on and particularly during the counting process later in the day.
The option of voting anywhere in the Province also revealed a systemic vulnerability in the prevention of voter fraud. If the indelible ink could be removed from a voters thumb after voting, during the Special Voting Days or Election Day, then it would be theoretically possible for voters to cast additional votes at different Polling Stations.
The only way an Election Observer could verify this voter fraud is if they were to recognise a voter at multiple Polling Stations during the process. This observation was unlikely to happen and so we can’t make a conclusive finding on whether multiple voting did occur. The systemic vulnerability should be fixed for future elections.
We also observed weaknesses in the leadership of a number of Presiding Officers, and some supporting staff. In a few cases their lack of knowledge, understanding, ability and/or confidence saw the voting process compromised. Some of these PO’s, mainly those with less experience, relied too heavily on the knowledge or input of observers or party agents to complete their work. This was not an issue that substantively affected the outcome of the election, but an area for improvement for the next election.
More Than Peace observed and reported from more than 130 Polling Stations in Khayelitsha, Siqalo, Mitchells Plain, Vrygrond, Delft, Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg, Masiphumele, Parkwood, Lwandle, Hermanus, Gugulethu, Langa, Lavender Hill, Bonteheuwel, Mfuleni, Claremont, Maitland, Ottery and the CBD amongst others.
We were trained to observe the entire process at polling stations – the behaviour of voters, political parties, political agents, and polling station officials – from the electronic scan of IDs at the door through to the casting of the votes, and thereafter the counting.
Election Observers were able to escalate issues observed during the election to their Observer Coordinator who then directed issues to the IEC immediately for resolution in real time. We believe that our observations and reporting helped strengthen and improve the election process and will give voters confidence that the process was transparent, free & fair.
We believe that the observers have been outstanding – showing great dedication volunteering their time. They included representatives from churches, other faith communities, NPOs, businesses, universities and community forums across the areas that we observed in. They began arriving at polling stations from 6am and worked in shifts throughout the day, and late into the night, as voting proceeded to counting. Some only went off-duty after sunrise the day after the election!
We will be compiling a detailed official summary of our observations and submitting it to the IEC by Saturday 11th May.
Thank you to all of you who have supported and prayed for us and this Election. We call on all South African citizens to consider volunteering as observers for future elections.
Rev Annie Kirke – 0607187636
More Than Peace Coalition Catalyst