Election Day got underway to a very positive start at 07H00 today as voting stations across South Africa opened and voters arrived in high numbers to cast their votes in the National and Provincial Elections.
Reports from election operations around the country showed that almost all voting stations opened on time and by 11H00 today large numbers of voters had already cast their ballots.
In scenes reminiscent of 1994, long queues of voters were seen waiting patiently to vote at voting stations throughout the country. The Electoral Commission assures voters that adequate supplies of all materials including more than 60 million ballot papers are available and every voter will be assisted to vote. Traditionally voting queues peak early as voters often seek to vote first thing during the day.
As always there were some challenges reported including instances where election staff failed to report on time for duty and where materials were delivered late. These had all been resolved by 09h00.
The Electoral Commission is sad to report the death of a Deputy Presiding Officer in the Eastern Cape due to illness overnight and extends its condolences to the family.
The Commission has also received reports of an elderly voter who apparently died in a voting station in Elandspoort, Tshwane early today and expresses its condolences to the family. Further details are not yet known.
A vehicle accident involving election staff was reported in the Eastern Cape and fortunately no serious injuries were reported.
A number of challenges relating to access to voting stations due to trenches dug across access roads as part of protest actions were reported but in most cases the South African Police Services, supported by the Department of Transport and municipal services were on standby to quickly resolve these.
By 11H30 today only 17 voting stations remained unopened due to access challenges. 14 of these were in the southern coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The Electoral Commission is working closely with security agencies supported by government departments to open these stations as soon as possible and safe for voters and election staff.
Inclement weather was reported through the southern parts of the country including parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State where cold conditions and rain were reported. However, the weather was not bad enough to affect voting operations.
The Electoral Commission has also noted media and social media reports of voters who have attempted or apparently been able to remove the indelible ink mark on their thumbs.
The indelible ink is one of a number of security checks and safeguards built into the election process but the Commission wishes to remind all voters that any attempt to undermine the integrity of the election process - including attempting to remove the ink mark - constitutes electoral fraud and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
The Electoral Commission wishes to thank voters who have already responded to the call to vote and appeals to all remaining voters to make their way to a voting station before they close at 21H00 tonight.
Today is your turn to make your voice heard and to support South Africa's democracy.