IEC concerned about bad weather conditions

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pretoria - With less than 24 hours before polling stations open, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it is concerned about the current bad weather conditions experienced in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The IEC's Chief Electoral Officer Advocate Pansy Tlakula said several makeshift polling stations in the Eastern Cape were blown away by strong winds on Monday. There is also an 80 percent chance of rain in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.

Although unfavorable weather conditions had also disrupted preparations in other provinces, Advocate Tlakula said the IEC had put in place contingency plans to allow voters to cast their ballots on Wednesday.

These will included distributing more makeshift polling stations and dispatching IEC officials to where the voters maybe stranded.

On Monday, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Electoral Officer Mawethu Mosery told BuaNews they were currently working on alternative plans to ensure smooth voting on Wednesday.

"We are aware of the weather situation on Wednesday and people should not panic, we are confident that we will be able to come up with a contingency plan," he said.

If the weather did not allow the use of helicopters to distribute ballot papers to rural areas, the IEC will use the roads.

He assured voters that the IEC would do whatever necessary to get the ballot papers to voting stations on time.

"The IEC will ensure that every station gets their ballot papers by Wednesday morning, even if it means working through the night.

"We will work 24 hours through the night to make it there on time... It will be there by 6.30am before voting stations open at 7am," said Mr Mosery.

Independent political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said if the weather remained poor it was likely to affect the turnout of voters.

"I'm of the view that the IEC's prediction of 80 percent turnout is not far fetched, however, if these reports about the weather are anything to go by it could be another story all together especially in rural areas," Mr Maseti said.

Meanwhile, IEC Chief Communication Officer, Kate Bapela has told BuaNews that more than 19 000 voting stations have already received their ballot papers and that it was all systems go for Wednesday's poll.

Around 23 million South Africans have registered to vote nationally with Gauteng having the largest voting population in the country with 5.5 million registered voters.

Advocate Tlakula further said results are expected to be announced between Saturday, 25 April and Wednesday 29 April, depending on the number of objections the IEC received from political parties.

By law, the Commission cannot announce results within 48 hours after voting has closed. The IEC is also constitutionally obliged to release the results within seven days after the Election Day.