After what was deemed a generally successful voting Wednesday, South Africa began counting votes with some provisional polling numbers trickling in from early Thursday morning.
By lunchtime on Thursday, five million national votes had been counted with the governing African National Congress (ANC) garnering three million, the Democratic Alliance (DA) 1.3 million and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) having 479,000.
However, it will still be more than 48 hours before South Africans know the final results.
In the meantime, political parties have thrown around an avalanche of complaints, ranging from the unavailability of ballot papers at a number of polling stations, problems with double voting and late opening of voting centres.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa says he suspects the elections “are rigged”. The results counted so far show poor results for UDM.
“There has never been so many irregularities since 1994 with people complaining of a lack of ballot papers, people being turned away from voting stations and problems with indelible ink. My suspicion at this point is that the elections are rigged. But we'll know more later,” he said.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has confirmed it was investigating two cases of multiple voting brought to its attention.
Some voters took to social media claiming they were able to cast ballots more than once.
The EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi claimed people who cast special votes on Monday and Tuesday went on to vote again on Wednesday.
“People who were registered for special votes pitched up and voted again. There are important things the IEC can't give you answers as to what they're going to do to reconcile them,” said Dr Ndlozi.
Congress of the People (COPE) MP Deidre Carter complained that her ink mark easily rubbed off her thumb, adding she could have easily voted twice.
Indelible ink was one of the security measures used to protect the voting system and prevent people from voting more than once.
The IEC Chairperson Mosotho Moepya insisted they bought ink made of a secret formula that should have made it difficult to remove.
“This is indelible ink and I promise you it’s indelible,” Mr Moepya explained.
However, if evidence of electoral fraud is found the results from those voting stations will be quarantined and suspected fraudsters prosecuted, he added.
“We’ve never been here before; it’s possible that something has happened. We’re saying we’ll pursue every one of these instances,” Mr Moepya said.
The IEC confirmed that five voting stations were not opened for voting as a result of community unrest in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
“The Electoral Commission is saddened by the lack of respect for democracy and the right of others in these limited areas and once again calls on those communities to put the national interests of the country above the narrow community interests at least for the day,” IEC deputy chief electoral officer, Masego Sheburi, said.
The DA said it is ready to bring legal action concerning complaints with the voting processes.
Political parties have until Friday to lodge objections before the anticipated final results announcement on Saturday.
DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe confirmed they were mulling court action.
“There have been considerably more objections because the problems facing this election have been considerably more serious,” he said.
Despite the complaints, Mr Moepya insisted the integrity of the sixth democratic elections was still intact.
Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni believes there is no cause for alarm. He said political parties will have recourse if they are dissatisfied with the final results.
“What is beautiful is that if the IEC does declare the results, those results would have been signed off by virtually all political parties. If there is one party that refuses to sign of course they have recourse,” Mr Mnguni said.
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in South Africa Andrei Zaharescu said: “From my point of view, everything was incredible and amazing. We spoke to people and it was very good for them.”
Preliminary results are expected to emerge late on Thursday, with an official winner declared on Saturday.