Durban – The Electoral Commission of South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal has roped in the police to investigate allegations that one of its presiding officers was on Sunday allegedly caught committing electoral fraud.
According to the commission in the province, the unnamed presiding officer was allegedly caught stuffing marked ballots into a ballot box.
It was not immediately clear which party the officer was trying to aid by committing the alleged offence and whether he has been relieved of his or her crucial role.
“In Ward 93, Kusakusa Primary School, in Mbumbulu area in eThekwini Metro Municipality, a presiding officer was allegedly discovered by party agents, stuffing marked ballot papers into a ballot box. This remains an allegation and SAPS are still investigating. Members of the media will be updated as soon as the full report is received from SAPS,” the commission said yesterday.
The first electoral official to be convicted (for five years) for electoral fraud post-1994 was Sindisiwe Ncube of Ulundi. In the 2009 general elections,Ncube was allegedly caught stuffing marked ballots and the ballots were allegedly in favour of the IFP.
Meanwhile, the commission in the province said despite challenges in uMdoni (Mzinto) municipality in the south of the province and Mkhambathini (Camperdown), most stations opened on time yesterday (Sun).
“The majority of voting stations were opened on time. The Mkhambathini Municipality matter reported yesterday (Saturday) where seven voting stations did not open due to a traditional leadership dispute in KwaNyavu Traditional Authority area, covering Ward 2, 3 and 5. The commission reported that voting stations are operating today under close monitoring by the SAPS.
“SAPS have reinforced their presence in the area and operations in voting stations have resumed,” the commission said. In the volatile uMdoni municipality, the commission said due to unrest in the area, some voting stations were not opened at all.
“The situation in uMdoni Municipality, where the commission reported that two of the five voting stations in ward six did not open at all because of community unrest in the area, these remain closed as SAPS attempts to restore stability in the area.
“A total of 36 home visits are yet to be administered in the area. The most affected voting station is Isulabasha Combined Primary School in Ward 6. The commission remains hopeful that voting station officers will be able to visit all homes that need to be visited to conduct special votes. Voting station staff that have completed their assigned special votes are being redirected in areas with pending home visits.”
In the 2019 general elections, uMdoni was a violent hot spot as the community of Stick Farm closed voting stations and prevented electoral officials from accessing them. When armed police eventually restored calm, the community boycotted the elections, opting not to vote, saying their area remains underdeveloped yet they have been voting since 1994.
In anticipation of disruptions and unrest, on Monday the Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that more than18 000 police officers have been deployed across the province, with the focus on hot spot areas like eThekwini, Nongoma, Ulundi, KwaDukuza (Stanger) and Newcastle.
Cele, who was speaking in Durban when deploying the SAPS battalion, said out of the 272 identified hot spots in the entire country, a majority of them are in KwaZulu-Natal, hence the special focus.
He said in areas like KwaDukuza and eThekwini, some councillor candidates have survived assassination attempts while other candidates are in hiding, fearing for their lives.
Cele said the SAPS officers should be ready to remove any threat that could impede the voting process. He was emphatic to the police that their role was to assist the commission to stage free, fair and credible elections and not to take over the process. Cele stressed that while South Africans have a right to protest any time they wanted to, they must not block those who wanted to vote or block police stations and if that happened, the police should intervene.