Eligible and registered South Africans are heading to the polls this morning in the Local Government Elections, to choose who will represent them in 257 municipal councils, across the country.
Voting stations are expected to open at 7am and will close at 9pm with more than 83% of special votes already cast over the weekend.
Some 26 million South Africans are registered to make their mark in the elections which will be cast at more than 23 000 Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) polling stations.
Voters in metropolitan municipalities will receive two ballot papers – one for their ward candidate and another for their political party.
In local municipalities, voters will receive a third ballot paper to select representatives for their District councils.
The voter’s roll has a more youthful look this year with those aged between the ages of 20 and 39 accounting for 41% of the roll.
The IEC has said these elections will be the most contested in history with more than 95 000 candidates staking their place in the ballots.
Briefing the nation on Sunday, IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini said preparations for these elections had been completed under difficult circumstances but the commission is ready to welcome South Africans to the polls.
“The commission is confident that all preparations are in place for us to achieve free, fair and, in the context of COVID-19, safe elections in our 2021 municipal elections. The commission is further satisfied that it has done everything in its powers to prepare for these elections which are highly contested given the number of candidates and parties which are contesting,” he said.
Last week, Mashinini insisted that transparency in these elections is critical and the integrity of the results would be secured from vote rigging.
“Transparency in our counting of results system…provides all the stakeholders with the necessary confidence that the results cannot be rigged.
“We would like to reiterate that we do have the measures in place. Some of these measures include the capturing and verification of results at each voting station by officials and party agents as well as posting those results at the door of the voting station. There is no way a commissioner or anybody can change the result,” he said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Sunday that police would be working closely with the IEC to ensure that no disruptions at polling stations due to protests and instructed police to “protect the voting stations and help the IEC to make sure that [voting] stations are opened”.
10 000 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members have been deployed and are expected to protect infrastructure such as ports, national key points, national roads and power stations.
Last week, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said all safety and security measures were in place to secure the elections.
“Over and above the physical deployments of SAPS officers at voting districts, reserve forces from the police are on standby to provide additional assistance should the need arise in and around the identified hotspot areas.
“To this end, security measures have been put in place to ensure the safety and security of voters, IEC officials, role-players, equipment, resources, voting stations and the general public,” she said.
This year’s elections are being held as the country continues to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini, non-pharmaceutical protocols will be followed at voting stations.
“Voting stations will be safe because…electoral staff will be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment to minimise the risk of contagion or spreading of the virus. Acceptable methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced [such as] maintaining social distancing by observing a distance of at least a metre and a half [and] sanitizing touch surfaces frequently,” he said.