The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has said they will only be ready for this year’s general and provincial elections by 15 April, suggesting that South Africans can expect to go to the polls in the second half of April.
The election date has not yet been set by President Kgalema Motlanthe despite pressure from opposition parties to make the announcement. Reports indicate that the announcement may be made at the opening of Parliament on February 6.
In delivering a briefing to Parliament’s portfolio committee on Home Affairs, IEC chairperson Dr Brigalia Bam said according to the Constitution Motlanthe would first have to consult with the IEC to find out about their preparedness.
According to Bam, the latest IEC figures show there are 21, 661,171 people on the voter’s roll.
The IEC is planning to carry out a voter registration drive over the weekend of 7-8 February in an effort to achieve its target of having 22 million registered voters for the 2009 elections. In a November registration push, 3.6 million South African’s visited 19,713 registration stations.
Efforts to woo young voters by political parties appear, however, to be falling on deaf ears.
Bam said the age group of 18 to 29 was “concerning” as it had declined from 32,1% to 26,1% of registered voters since 1999.
The most active group was the 30 to 39 age group, which had increased from 62.2% to 67,4%.
A continuous trend in voter registration was an increase in women.
Figures showed that the number of men had declined from 45.55% in 1999 to 44.9% currently.
But the number of women had increased marginally from 54.45% to 55.1% – an indication of the power of the female vote.
Bam said the upcoming elections were going to be “exciting and challenging” and compared the challenge to the first democratic elections in 1994.
For the first time, results will be scanned at voting station level instead of being transported to district office.
Bam said this was initiated because of previous accusations about what happened to result papers en route and similar problems experienced in other countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Members of the committee raised concerns about infrastructure at some of the 19,726 polling stations, specifically mentioning a lack of ablution facilities and water or electricity.
Bam said there were still some polling stations that had been without infrastructure since 1994, despite ongoing communication with various stakeholders to upgrade facilities.
“We have tried everything to work with the people on the ground but unfortunately it seems that they have their own plans and therefore it’s beyond us,” she said.