Pres commends South Africans for enthusiasm

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pretoria - President Kgalema Motlanthe has commended South Africans for their enthusiasm ahead of Wednesday's polls.

He said this was a sign of the country's mature democracy.

"We are of the view that the level of enthusiasm displayed during the campaigning [period] and the levels of participation by young and old people indicates that our democracy is vibrant."

The President was speaking during a visit to the Independent Electoral Commission's Results Operation Centre.

Commenting on tomorrow's prediction of cloudy, cool weather and rain forecast in some parts, Mr Motlanthe said in African culture when it rained, it was regarded as a good omen which would wash away "all the glitches and difficulties".

He said this kind of weather would "melt the hearts of those who may want to create difficulties" when over 23 million voters descend on various voting stations on Wednesday.

"We look forward to a free and fair election," he said.

"[Those] doom sayers who believe that our democracy is floundering should be prepared to eat humble pie because I believe that we have a vibrant democracy which does not allow for any form of abuse of the system because checks and balances have been placed," said the president.

Mr Motlanthe said he was proud of the IEC's previous standards and he did not expect any less this time around.

The president took the opportunity to welcome the more than 300 international observers who are in the country to witness South Africa's fourth democratic elections.

The observer teams include representatives' from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum, the Senegal People Development Institute and the SADC Electoral Forum among others.

One of the observers who will be stationed in Bloemfontein for the duration of the elections Omar Mussa told BuaNews recently that there should be no reason why South Africa cannot conduct free and fair elections.

Mr Mussa will be stationed in Bloemfontein until he leaves the country on Saturday.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who visited the centre on Tuesday said he had been briefed by the IEC and political parties who are contesting the elections and that South Africa would be able to deal with any likely incidents in "flash point" areas.

"Preparations are fairly impressive, one cannot say human preparations are perfect," said Mr Obasanjo.

IEC spokeswoman Kate Bapela described the president's visit as a special occasion.

"We couldn't ask for a more special gift. As a country this moment is very special," she said.

Commenting on the second and last day of the casting of special votes Ms Bapela said indications were that the voting had gone smooth and that those who had voted "were all smiles".

Special votes are meant for the physically infirm, those who are in an advanced stage of pregnancy as well as electoral staff and security personnel who will be on electoral duty on Election Day.

Ballots cast since Monday will be counted along with the rest of the country's votes after voting stations close on Wednesday evening at 9pm. Votes from South Africans living abroad who cast their votes last week will also be counted then.

Spokesperson for the South African embassy in London, Niall Wilkins, on Tuesday told BuaNews that though 22 April has not been deemed a holiday for South Africans living in the United Kingdom, expats were likely to watch election coverage on TV.

He said, however, that he was not sure how much coverage the South African elections would receive. "Certainly they will be glued to their computers and reading the news as it comes in over the net," he said.

Commenting on the aftermath of the casting of votes in London, which had the highest number of voters abroad, Mr Wilkins said the embassy had received positive response from the voters.

"Letters we have received have been very positive, people enjoyed their experience here and were happy to contribute to the democracy of South Africa," he said.