Sporadic protests flared up in South Africa as the country’s citizens took to the polls on Wednesday for the sixth democratic elections.
Voting stations opened at 7am and will only close at 9pm to allow the 26.7 million registered voters to cast their ballots for the national and provincial elections.
Disturbances started on Monday during the first day of special voting when a group of knife wielding men accosted Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials who were conducting home visits in Giyani, Limpopo.
According to the IEC, the men confiscated 93 unused provincial ballot papers, which they then destroyed.
“Fortunately, no one was injured, and the cast ballots were secured and not affected. Two of the suspects were arrested,” said IEC chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo.
On Wednesday mid-morning, there were disturbances in Holpan, just outside mining town Kimberly in the Northern Cape Province, when police clashed with protesters.
Angry protesters stopped residents from going to vote saying “there was nothing that has changed for the past 25 years”.
Residents in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha blockaded roads on Wednesday morning in a bid to express their discontent over poor service delivery in the region.
Protests also flared up in Umlazi, Durban, with protesters burning tyres and debris.
National broadcaster SABC reported that two community halls in Durban set-up as voting stations have been burned down as part of the demonstrations.
Mr Mamabolo confirmed there were 17 stations across the country that were still not open five hours after the official opening time.
“We will open them, as we speak some of them have been opened. We will then make an assessment of how the voting goes in those particular stations. The commission is allowed by the law to extend hours but that will be determined by how voting progresses in those stations,” he said.
Indications across South Africa are that many young people eligible to vote have stayed away.
Political analyst, Tessa Dooms said: “Young people feel like they need to be heard…that’s why they’ve decided if they are not going to be heard they will not vote.”
All leading political parties – the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – all frequented Alexander, one of the poorest urban areas in Johannesburg. However, young people in the township have not turned up to vote.
Standing near a burst sewage pipe, 22-year-old Senzo Nkabinde from the famous township said he was not voting because it was “obvious” that his vote would not bring about positive change to the township.
“We have heard their promises, but we just don’t believe they have our interests at heart. All they want is to either win or retain power,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mr Mamabolo said the IEC were happy with the progress of the voting exercise.
“Let voting continue peacefully, calmly and without disruption and let us once against show the world that South Africa remains a shining light of democracy in action,” he said.
Former President Kgalema Motlhante, who cast his vote on Wednesday afternoon in Houghton, Johannesburg, said it felt great to exercise his democratic right.
“I am glad that there are actually 17 or 18 parties registered, which shows they believe in the system. Of course some of them won’t make it, but the fact that they raise their hands is important,” Mr Motlhante said.
Speaking to journalists after casting his vote in Soweto, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised the ANC would do better if re-elected to run government.
“We are going to correct the bad ways of the past,” he said.
An accredited member of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Vuyelwa Sebolao, described the election as a time for the nation to unite for peaceful and successful elections.
“We will be working with the IEC to ensure the credibility of the elections. This is an opportunity to build on the success of the previous elections and to further strengthen the South African democracy.
“We are honoured to have been accredited to be the eyes and the ears of the commission,” said Mr Sebolao.