South Africa: South African Elections Lauded for Transparency Despite Minor Glitches

The Electoral Support Network of Southern Africa (ESN-SA) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have jointly praised the 2024 South African elections for their transparency and smooth conduct, despite encountering some logistical and technical challenges.

In a preliminary statement released Friday, the ESN-SA and ZESN detailed the findings of their ten-member observer mission, which monitored polling processes in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape provinces. The mission aimed to evaluate adherence to national laws and regional and international democratic standards.

“The South African elections were conducted transparently and orderly, showcasing the commitment of the electoral authorities and stakeholders to uphold democratic principles,” said the Joint Mission in their statement.

The observers noted that the legal framework, encompassing the Constitution, Electoral Act, Electoral Commission Act, and Political Party Funding Act, effectively supported the democratic process.

However, challenges remained, particularly in enforcing transparency measures in political party funding and the absence of specific legislation mandating women’s political representation.

Polling stations opened to long queues of eager voters, with some delays observed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal due to the late arrival of polling materials. Despite these setbacks, voting proceeded in an orderly manner, with stations well-equipped with necessary materials. The mission commended the significant gender representation among polling officials and the professional conduct of security agents, which ensured a safe voting environment.

High voter turnout and youth participation were highlights of the election. Young electoral officials demonstrated professionalism, contributing to efficient voting processes. However, the mission noted a need for improved voter education, particularly regarding new electoral changes such as introducing a third ballot for independent candidates.

“High voter participation was observed in most voting centres visited. Youth participation, in particular, was noted to be significant, with young electoral officials demonstrating professionalism in managing the voting process.”

The advanced results operational centre, equipped with modern digital infrastructure, was lauded for enhancing transparency. The mission also recognized the media’s role in educating voters and noted the need for a regulatory framework to protect against cyberbullying and misinformation.

The Joint Mission identified areas for improvement, including ensuring an adequate number of Voter Management Devices (VMDs) and backup internet connections at all voting stations, improving lighting conditions, and enhancing voter education efforts.

“Voting procedures were observed to be efficient, with an average processing time of three minutes per voter. However, some voting stations experienced technical issues with VMDs, intermittent internet connections, and poor lighting conditions…

The ESN-SA and ZESN made several recommendations to further improve future elections, including ensuring adequate voting materials, strengthening voter education, and creating regulations to protect citizens from cyber threats.

Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) has described the pre-election and voting phases of South Africa’s National and Provincial Elections as having being held in an “orderly, peaceful and free atmosphere”

In a preliminary statement, Former Zambian Vice President and SEOM Head, Enock Kavindele, said some 84 observers were deployed to all nine provinces and they engaged with stakeholders from all parts of society on the elections.

“The mission observed that the country was calm and peaceful in the pre-election, election-day, and the immediate post-election period. I must emphasise that this was a very conducive environment for the elections, where only a few isolated incidences of political violence were reported.

“It was the concern of stakeholders that the incidences prevented special voting and final election campaign events in the areas. Apart from these isolated incidences, our observers deployed across the country witnessed numerous peaceful, well-planned, and highly attended political rallies,” he said.

He noted that the South African Police Service (SAPS) “maintained its vigilance and preserved peace” during the election period with “more resources to high-risk areas to address eventualities”.