All systems go for local govt elections

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pretoria - It is all systems go for 121 parties, 53 596 candidates who will battle it out for the hearts and minds of 23.6-million voters for seats in city and municipal councils.

Voting at all 20 859 stations have opened at 7am this morning and will close at 7pm.

"As the referee for elections, the Electoral Commission (IEC) is ready. We are committed to once again deliver free, fair and credible elections on Wednesday," IEC Chairperson Brigalia Bam.

"The outcome of local elections will determine many things that citizens tend to take for granted. Local taxes, maintenance of streets, funding for city projects and occasionally the reputation of a city all depend upon the election of mayors, representatives and council members. We urge all South Africans to participate in the election to further strengthen and localise our democracy," Bam said.

Bam said the IEC is happy that at 23.6 million registered - this is the highest number of voters ever registered to take part in the elections.

"Similarly our multiparty democracy appears to be getting stronger and stronger with 121 parties contesting the elections compared to the 97 parties in 2006 and 79 in 2000.

"The number of candidates is 53 596 compared to 45 179 in 2006 and 30 477 in 2000. Of the 53 596 candidates 29 570 are party ward candidates and 23278 are party proportional list candidates. The number of independent ward candidates also increased from 667 in 2006 to 754 in 2011," she said.

Elections provide interesting stats: 17 months of planning, six months of procurement, R2.277 billion in the IEC total budget; 226 local councils; 44 district councils; 8 metro councils; 278 elections (one per council).

There are also 221 610 ballot boxes; 118 770 voting compartments; 58 240 stationery packs (61 tons of stationery); 41 718 banners; 20 859 zip-zip scanners; 23 000 templates for Braille votes; 20 859 maps of voting districts; 1 042 950 paper clips; 200 859 ballpoint pens; 41 718 refuse bags; 20 859 calculators and 237 warehouses to store voting material.

"Our elections are examples of democracy's resilience. South Africa was polarised, angry and hated as pariah state. Despite all these factors, our nation has been able to hold transparent, free and fair elections. A majority of those who vote dictate the direction in which they want South Africa to go - ensuring that the very essence of democracy is fulfilled," said Bam.

Pansy Tlakula, Chief Electoral Officer of the Commission said she was pleased with the preparations and thanked suppliers, civil society organisations, members of the public who participated in its different programmes, political parties, all the different spheres of government, members of the diplomatic corps and the media and unions and business organisations for making the election possible.

"This election will not be possible without the commitment of all South Africans to our democracy and the principles underpinning it. We thank every South African for loving this country."

Tlakula said the slogan "Love your South Africa," has worked to galvanise parties, their supporters and potential voters.

"We believe that, across the length and breadth of this nation, people inherently love and have a strong connection to this country. And it is our job to remind them of this.

"Why? Because if you love something you want the best for it; and if you want the best for something you will take an active part in ensuring it gets the best; and that means you will vote and participate in your country's democratic development; because that is how you show you care, how you show you love your community and how you love and commit to your country.

"So, we urge South Africans. Show that you "Love Your South Africa" by voting on Wednesday," said Tlakula.