IEC Chief Electoral Officer on Readiness for “Super Wednesday” by-elections

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    Statement by the Chief Electoral Officer Mr Sy Mamabolo on readiness for “Super Wednesday” by-elections

    Introduction:

    The Electoral Commission is pleased to announce that everything is ready and in place for the by-elections taking place in 95 wards across 55 municipalities in all nine provinces on Wednesday this week.

    The by-elections are the first to be held since election activities were suspended in March this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are a “catch-up” of all by-elections postponed between March and September.

    Of the 95 by-elections:

    ·         20 are in the Northern Cape across 8 municipalities

    ·         19 are in the Eastern Cape across 13 municipalities

    ·         14 are in Gauteng across 6 municipalities

    ·         12 are in KwaZulu-Natal across 9 municipalities

    ·         11 are in the Western Cape across 5 municipalities

    ·         6 are in the North West across 4 municipalities

    ·         5 are in Mpumalanga across 3 municipalities

    ·         4 are in Limpopo across 4 municipalities and

    ·         4 are in the Free State across 3 municipalities

    The by-elections include two dissolved councils in the Northern Cape where PR candidates must also be elected (9 PR seats in Phokwane and 3 PR seats in Renosterberg).

    Voting is scheduled to take place between 7am and 9pm in 455 voting stations of which 233 (51%) are in schools, 65 (14%) are in places of worship and 157 (35%) are in other structures.

    The results of the by-elections are expected to be announced by midday on Thursday.

    Voting:

    A total of 609 133 voters are on the certified voters’ rolls for the various by-elections. A total of 23 008 (3.7 percent) applied and have been approved to cast a special vote – 12 218 via home visits and 10 790 at their voting station. Special votes will be cast tomorrow (Tuesday 10 November).

    Voters are reminded to:

    ·         Only vote at the voting station where they are registered

    ·         To bring their green barcoded ID document or smartcard ID

    ·         To wear a mask and observer social distancing at all times

    ·         And to bring their own pen if they wish to avoid using the ones provided

    COVID-19 protocols:

    The Electoral Commission is confident that the by-elections will be free, fair and safe as long as all stakeholders conform to the strict safety measures and protocols put in place at voting stations.

    These include:

    ·         Strict social distancing practices both outside and inside voting stations

    ·         The mandatory wearing of masks over nose and mouth of all persons within the boundaries of the voting station

    ·         The application of hand sanitisers to all persons entering and exiting the voting station

    ·         The replacement of the traditional indelible ink marker pens with an indelible ink liquid which will be applied from a bottle to the thumb of voters using cotton buds which will be disposed after each use

    Protective equipment including masks, gloves and face shields have been procured for election staff for voting stations and for conducting home visits for those voters who are physically disabled, infirm or pregnant.

    Contestants:

    The by-elections are being contested by 40 political parties with a total of 444 candidates certified as contestants. This includes 19 independent candidates.

    Of the candidates, 305 (69%) are male and 139 (31%) are female.

    The age breakdown of candidates is as follows:

    Logistics:

    All the necessary election equipment has been procured and distributed to warehouses and will be transported to voting stations tomorrow.

    This includes:

    ·         Copies of the voters’ rolls and voting district maps

    ·         Ballot papers (97 variations including 2 PR; approximately 700 000 total papers)

    ·         Voting booths

    ·         Pens

    ·         Security materials (including ballot paper stamps, 2 300 indelible ink bottles and 900 000 cotton application buds)

    ·         PPE: A range of sanitizing materials including hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes along with disposal bins and bags (for used equipment) has been distributed. In addition, the Electoral Commission has procured masks, hand sanitisers, disposable gloves for staff including:

    o   28,000 face masks

    o   3,600 face shields

    o   65,000 rubber gloves

    o   1,500 biohazard bins and bags

    o   1,150 packs of sanitizer wipes

    o   1,300 litres of sanitiser

    o   10,000 social distancing markers

    Weather:

    The South African Weather Service is predicting cooler conditions over much of the country this week. Widespread rain is expected on Wednesday in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and North West.

    Fortunately, no severe thunderstorms or other significant weather warnings are currently in place for the country this week.

    Conclusion:

    The Electoral Commission is confident that all logistical, human resource and safety preparations are in place to ensure free, fair and safe elections on Wednesday.

    Or course, adequate planning and preparations are necessary but not sufficient for successful elections. We also need voters to turn out in numbers to participate to give credibility and legitimacy to the outcome – especially in ward by-elections where victory can be determined by a handful of votes. The Electoral Commission appeals to all roleplayers – election staff, voters, party agents, candidates and observers – to abide by all the electoral laws and regulations including the Code of Conduct. And they must work with us to support and conform to the new COVID-19 protocols designed to ensure everyone’s safety.

    Wednesday’s by-elections are our first under COVID conditions. Unfortunately, they will not be the last. These by-elections are a test for all stakeholders ahead of future by-elections and for next year’s Local Government Elections. With everyone’s cooperation, we believe this week’s by-elections will provide a successful template for the planning and holding of free, fair and safe elections in the future.

    ENDS

    ISSUED BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
    Ensuring free and fair elections
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