Vukile Dlwati30 May 2024 | 5:20

Elections 2024 marred by snaking queues, technical glitches and a burdened IEC

Registered voters who turned up to cast their ballots on Wednesday were met with snaking queues and technical glitches with the voter management devices.

Elections 2024 marred by snaking queues, technical glitches and a burdened IEC

Voters queue outside the Thokoza fire station in Gauteng on 29 May 2024 as they wait for IEC officials to let them in to cast their votes. Picture: Jacques Nelles/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has distanced itself from speculation that it had an intentional hand in slowing down the voting process on election day.
Registered voters who turned up to cast their ballots on Wednesday were met with snaking queues and technical glitches with the voter management devices (VMDs).
Some claimed they grew frustrated with waiting and abandoned their democratic right to vote.
Chief Electoral Officer of the IEC Sy Mamabola said there were “no deliberate delays on the part of the commission. We have no plans for a second day of voting.”
Mamabola briefed the media at the results operating centre at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Wednesday evening, two hours before voting stations were due for closure.
Addressing concerns that some voters were chased away from voting stations due to full ballot boxes, he said: “It shouldn’t be that way”.
Moreover, there were throngs of voters still stuck in a queue at the Thokoza voting station, in Johannesburg – where there was a high concentration of South African Police Service (SAPS) members - before casting their votes.
One fed-up voter vented to Eyewitness News outside the voting station on Wednesday night: “I came here since 1pm but the line is not going. So, we don’t understand what is the problem here inside the voting station, because no one has come out to update us on what is happening.
“I was supposed to leave and go back to my house… I am feeling very bad,” he said, further deeming the IEC a “failure” in this regard.
This was beyond the national closing time for voting stations, which was 9pm.

However, the IEC clarified that no registered voter would be turned away before the cut-off time.

Mamabolo also dismissed speculation that voting would run into a second day.

"We have no plan for a second day of voting. We’ve never entertained such a plan, so voting will happen until it concludes, and until everybody in the queue is given an opportunity to vote,” he said.

Voting went beyond midnight, where some 27 million voters would take the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.

Students at various campuses including Wits, Tshwane University of Technology and University of Pretoria bore the brunt of the delayed voting.

In the early hours of Thursday, the first set of results started trickling shortly after midnight and were reflected on the IEC's dashboard.

Mamabolo could not indicate when vote counting would begin, and when the numbers would start reflection on the screens at the results centre.
He said this was due to a high voter turnout, with over 27 million registered voters for the 2024 polls and 23,000 voting stations nationwide.
At previous elections, said Mamabolo, voter numbers would start trickling in at around 1am.
"We're counting three ballots instead of two. It will be later than usual."

He added that the commission had the duty of balancing two imperatives "accuracy" and "speed" when votes are counted.
He added that “ballots are counted at the voting station where they are cast. Party agents, independent candidate agents, and observers monitor the entire counting and results process and are present at all times.”
“Sealed ballot boxes are opened and emptied. Each ballot paper is unfolded facedown and checked for the Electoral Commission security stamp. Stamped ballots are considered valid. Unstamped ballots are invalid and are not counted toward the results,” explained Mamabolo.
According to the IEC, it has seven days to announce the results.
“We have always been able to declare and announce the results well within this period and will endeavour to do so with these elections.”
Mamabolo revealed that the IEC went all out to ensure its credibility before and during the election season would be guarded on social media platforms.
"The commission put a lot of resources with managing the social media space… What is clear though is that the quantum of posts outweighs out reaction time," he said, citing the reposting of content on various platform challenges and the speed at which it reached recipients.
Build One South African (BOSA) leader Mmusi Maimane said the IEC’s VDM glitches were “a permanent problem” of the Chapter 9 Institution.
He posited that voters weren’t clued up about the additional third ballot contested by political parties and independent candidates in one’s region.
Meanwhile, RISE Mzansi national spokesperson Gugu Ndima said the IEC had worked immensely hard to pull off the polls “despite the technicalities”.
National spokesperson of the uMkhonto weSiwe (MK) Party Nhlamulo Ndhlela was rather lenient in his response to the IEC’s shortfalls.
“We've had a bittersweet moment today [Wednesday]. But it’s a day we've been waiting for and we're finally here. And naturally, it's an election process. There will be glitches.”


While only 0.94% of the ballots have been captured onto the IEC’s leaderboard at the national results operations centre – analysts say it’s already clear to see by early Thursday morning that the ANC is in trouble in KwaZulu-Natal and the Patriotic Alliance is doing exceptionally well in the Western Cape. 

The first figures on the board showed the DA sliding in support but still holding onto some of the first of the rural voting districts to have come in from Prince Albert and Matzikama, with the Patriotic Alliance seemingly making early gains when compared to their 2019 performance. 

Forty-six thousand valid votes had been counted by early morning, with the ANC still leading the pack with well over 24,000 ballots cast in its favour.

The DA stood on 9,000, the EFF hovered under 4,000 and the MK party is approaching the 3,000 votes mark.

But with less than 50,000 ballots counted by early Thursday morning, it remains a long game likely to shift multiple times over coming days.