Election Day Overview 2009

This overview is based solely on reports made to KZN Monitor, so it is by no means comprehensive and does not necessarily cover known hotspots which were the subject of much media and monitoring attention.

The nature of most complaints

The majority of complaints related to alleged infringements of electoral rules relating to the ban on political canvassing around the polling stations and unauthorised party supporters (i.e. identifiable by their apparel) entering the voting area. Allegations of insulting and intimidatory behaviour at the entrance to the voting area were also common. Areas from which reports of this nature were received, during the daylight hours, were

  • Mthengwani near Murchison and Ward 24 outside Gamalakhe (south coast)
  • Nhlabankosi (agricultural training centre, Umzumbe, south coast)
  • Macambini (Mshoko High School, Ward 1 area, Nyoni)
  • Muden (Zibambaleni hall and other polling stations)
  • Mahlabatini
  • Aphaphini High School, Ward 1, Sweetwaters, Pietermaritzburg
  • Nobande school, Sweetwaters
  • Zezokuhle Primary School, Ward 1, Mpumuza, Pietermaritzburg

Towards nightfall, fears were expressed at Ocheni, Maphumulo, that tensions between IFP and ANC might erupt into violence, but it seems that political intervention defused the situation. The local station commissioner attended the situation and reported that all was well.

More serious incidents

In two other areas, however, tensions had increased considerably by early evening, leading to calls for the deployment of more police (see below).

In the Sweetwaters area, where intimidation and threat were rife prior to the elections (and in previous elections), and irregularities had been alleged during the day, the ANC alleged that death threats had been made against them, and that they felt very unsafe because the police posted at the different polling stations were taking no action against persons who were breaking the law.

At the Nogide polling station, which falls under uMsinga district, the ANC’s election co-ordinator in the area Bhazuka Dladla and two party supporters (female) were allegedly beaten by IFP supporters. Dladla was assisted by police in leaving the area, and required medical attention. A case has been opened.

In Pongola, ANC councillor Busi Mvelase was allegedly threatened with death by IFP supporters in the evening. She called the police and they did respond.

In the eHlabeni area of Bulwer (which is also serviced by the Creighton SAPS) a local man who has reportedly received military training, Shayamamba Zulu, allegedly beat people at the polling station and damaged property (he is also alleged to have committed other crimes). He was arrested by the SAPS.

Security force performance

There seems little doubt that the presence of significant numbers of security force personnel from outside of affected areas has played a major role in securing largely peaceful elections. Independent observers and monitors, too, played an important role. In known hot spots such as Pongola, Muden and Macambini, mention was made of police from outside of the area making positive interventions in the face of threat or electoral laws being broken.  Macambini residents, in particular, were most grateful for the deployment of army personnel.  There have also been positive interventions by local police, including in the Maphumulo area.

However, the fact that in a number of areas electoral laws were allegedly broken in the presence of the police is a cause for concern. Once again it seems that more police may be deployed in urban area polling stations than at remote rural stations where there is far more risk to electoral officers, party agents and voters. The police deployed at Nogide station (uMsinga) are alleged to have left the station before the counting started.  In the case of Sweetwaters and Mpumuza it was necessary to contact the Plessislaer station commissioner and request that he personally check on all the stations, in the light of allegations which were being made about police inaction.

Calls for more police to be deployed came as darkness descended, but the election deployment had already stretched police resources to the limit.  Short of exceptional circumstances such calls would not be necessary if the police at polling stations were seen to be doing their jobs – and to be calling for assistance themselves if there were a need for it.  It is not acceptable that electoral officials, party agents and, in some cases, voters, should fear for their lives during the evening hours, when the voting is winding up and votes are being counted.  The lesson for future elections is that there must be systems in place to ensure that police do what they are supposed to do – and that all station commissioners are easily accessible and able to respond to complaints personally, and without delay, given their responsibility as management.

Although the voting is over the threat of violence remains, especially during the period that election results are being announced.  It is imperative that security forces remain deployed to prevent any violent reactions during this period.