Mbombela - Commissioners from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) visited the Mpumalanga legislature on Thursday to inform the house on preparations for the local government elections next year.
IEC chairperson Brigalia Bam said that South Africans needed to be mobilised to ensure they turned out at voting stations in larger numbers than the 77.3 percent who did so for the general election last year.
"Service delivery must also be quick so that people see the need to vote. It is also important that citizens remember to vote for candidates who will represent their interests and that of the nation," said Bam.
Challenges mentioned during Thursday's meeting included the general poor voter turnout for local government elections, demarcation disputes and that, in some cases, more than the expected number of people turned up at a voting station, ignorant of where they were registered to vote.
"To curb the problem of a huge turnout of people, we will use more than one classroom to vote to ensure the smooth running of the voting process and avoid long lines. Additional staff will also be brought to that station," said IEC deputy chief executive officer Mosotho Moepya.
He said it was imperative that people knew they would not be allowed to vote if their names did not appear on the voters' roll at a specific voting station.
Mpumalanga provincial electoral officer Steven Ngwenya said the House of Traditional Leaders had been roped in to help mobilise rural communities to register and vote.
"According to Statistics SA, about 70 percent of people in South Africa live in rural areas. To reach out to the masses, we have partnered with traditional leaders so that when they hold events or meetings, representatives from the IEC will be present to use the opportunity to make presentations about the upcoming elections," said Ngwenya.
He said the IEC had so far reached about 70 000 members of rural communities in Mpumalanga during 112 events.
Premier David Mabuza promised that his government would provide the necessary infrastructure for the election to run smoothly.
"Water and sanitation will be provided in the various voting stations. We are ready for the elections and the people of Mpumalanga need to understand that an election is a platform to address their problems."
The local government election will be contested in 4 277 wards, up from 3 895 in 2006.
About 200 000 electoral officers will be employed, and voter registration will take place on 6 February and 6 March, both of which fall on a Sunday.
The election date is yet to be announced.