International observers oversee elections

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pretoria- As South Africans take to the polls, international observers, mostly from Africa, are overseeing the electoral process to ensure that it is free and fair.

Observers from countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Burundi, among others, could be seen around the Independent Electoral Commission's (IEC) Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Pretoria.

Speaking to BuaNews, representatives from the Zambian Electoral commission, who had visited various polling stations around Pretoria, said they were pleased with the operations so far.

The team had visited polling stations in Sunnyside, Arcadia, Nellmapius and Mamelodi, among others.

They did however raise concerns about the slow delivery of voting material such as ballot papers and technical problems with scanners at those stations that did not open by 7am.

"We also noticed that people were confused with the introduction of streams ...more voter education should have been done before the polls," said Commissioner Minerva Telo. She also said that action should be taken against those campaigning not far from the voting stations, which she said was common in some of the visited areas.

Campaigning outside a polling station is illegal and the IEC said police will take tough action against any offenders.

The Tanzanian team of observers, which was also pleased with the preparedness, could be seen familiarizing themselves with the technology in the centre.

The Electoral Commission of Burundi (CENI) is also in the country to observe the elections. The group has been split into two groups, with some deployed in Gauteng province.

Invited by the South African Embassy in Burundi, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the objectives of the visit will be to observe the elections and further enhance the capacity of the CENI, with a view to prepare for the 2015 Burundian Elections.

This visit will be the second by the CENI to South Africa to observe elections, with the first visit having been made during South Africa's general elections in April 2009, shortly after the CENI was sworn in.

The IEC had provided workshops to educate the observers about the country's electoral law, procedures and management of resources.

Meanwhile, voting got off to a smooth start with 95 percent voting stations opening on time. Minor glitches were reported in some parts of the country such as power outages, late delivery of voting material and technical problems with the zip-zap scanners.

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