20 March 2019

South Africa: Record Number of Political Parties Contesting Elections Amid Concerns Over Load Shedding

Photo: warrenski/Flickr
IEC voting station (file photo).

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has expressed concern over the potential impact rolling blackouts could have on the looming elections.

The electoral body said it would do all it can to protect the integrity of the May 8 elections.

The IEC hosted 48 political parties in Midrand, where representatives from 45 of the parties pledged and signed its code of conduct.

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the 2019 national elections had 19 more parties vying for power than the 2014 poll, resulting in the longest ballot sheet since the dawn of democracy.

He said the commission was engaging with Eskom over its electricity concerns.

"Electricity supply is a matter of concern for the economy and it's a matter of concern for the elections themselves," said Mamabolo during a media briefing following the signing of the code of conduct by political parties.

'Second-tier contingency plan'

Mamabolo said the IEC noted the announcement from Eskom on Tuesday.

Executives from the electricity provider and Pravin Gordhan, the minister of public enterprises, announced that the rolling blackouts would be a common feature in the everyday life of South Africans for some time to come with no end in sight, but promised to give an update in a week's time.

"Given those pronouncements, we are going into a second-tier contingency plan to make sure counting, because it happens at night, is not disrupted," said Mamabolo.

He stressed that the electricity crisis was an issue that would cost the IEC more money, as over and above making sure around 22 924 voting stations were electrified, contingency plans had to be made in case they experienced load shedding.

"None the less in order to protect the integrity of the electoral process, we'll spare no cent, no effort, to make sure there is sufficient lighting inside the voting stations on election day," said Mamabolo.

Earlier, political parties including the ANC made pledges, with some vowing to win at the polls.

'Better to have us inside Parliament than outside it'

There were plenty of newcomers on the ballot including former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, whose African Content Movement is contesting in all nine provinces as well as the national elections. There is also the Land Party, which is an offshoot from the EFF, the Capitalist Party of South Africa and the Economic Emancipation Forum.

Andile Mngxitama, president of another first-time participant, Black First Land First, thanked the IEC for its treatment of his party, and warned that it was better to have the BLF inside the National Assembly than outside it.

"We are going to that Parliament to return the land of our people. Land thieves must stop us from going to Parliament," said Mngxitama.

The BLF leader also had a message for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was at the event.

"We are in the dark, Mr Ramaphosa we are being killed by load shedding, keep the lights on. Bring back Brian Molefe," said Mngxitama.

Source: News24

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