At least one polling station in the South African province of Kwa-Zulu Natal had to conduct its business by candelight after the power supply failed, leaving voters and officials struggling in the darkness to complete the voting procedures, while outside voters expressed fears of “being attacked.”
A report in South Africa’s IOL news service titled “’We are shocked to find vote counting will be done in darkness’” reported that members of political parties and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials “were outraged when voting had to be conducted by candlelight as a result of a power outage at a polling station in Ulundi, Zululand, on May 8 evening.”
Tholo Masango, an IEC presiding officer at Mabedlana Primary School, said without electricity power, conducting voting was “extremely difficult.”
She said instead of power being restored the station was only provided with candles.
“The power was cut off at about 9am, and we reported it and remained hopeful that it was going to be switched on before dark.
“At 5.30pm we were promised battery powered lamps and we are still waiting,” she said.
Independent Media saw officers struggling to check voters’ IDs as they were using cell phone lights and candles.
Voters had to also use their cellphones to check their preferred parties at ballot booths.
“We are even running out of cellphone batteries because we don’t have anywhere to charge… Candles do not provide enough lights,” she said.
Masango said she was concerned that counting ballot papers would be difficult without lights.
Parties members who camped outside the station expressed concern.
“We might even be attacked here because of darkness. They switched the power on a very wrong day.
“There is no way they can count votes without lights, we are not going to trust the results. Counting must wait until the power is restored because they are going to rob us,” said ANC activist Phindile Thabete.
NFP’s Zwelibanzi Mncwango said “these are not free and fair elections”. He said for months electricity had been on and off in the village.
“It was long known that today there is going to be elections, but the municipality continued to ignore electricity problems. We had hoped that the electricity problem would be dealt with before May 8.
“We are shocked today to find that counting will be done in darkness,” he said.
IFP’s Piet Mlabo said the community had been informed during the day that a substation in Ulundi CBD had caught fire.
“We don’t believe that, and if that was the case the substation should have been repaired before dark.
“These elections are not free and fair, and we won’t trust the results. This is one of the biggest voting stations in Ulundi,” said Mlambo.
Umbilo residents who turned up to make their mark after sunset also had to vote in the dark on election day.
The Umbilo area in Durban lost power around midday on Wednesday.
* The ruling ANC is expected to win the elections with around 54 percent of the vote, approximately the same as it won at the last elections in 2014. That party has undertaken to press ahead with its plans to seize white property without compensation, a policy which has been put on hold pending the outcome of the elections on May 8.