Thanks to the vigilance of party agents and observers in Benoni and Ermelo, two presiding electoral officers have been dismissed by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) for mishandling ballot boxes.
How IEC officials are expected to handle ballot boxes
Social media erupted in outrage in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after two videos surfaced, showing two separate incidents where IEC officials were caught handling ballot boxes that held special votes in an unconventional manner.
According to the electoral body, officials have been trained extensively on the process of transferring special votes from the voting bags to ballot boxes.
Moreover, once the ballot boxes have been filled with voting papers, they are meant to be closed shut with a tamper-proof security seal. Party agents have also been given the right to use their own seals to ensure the safety and security of the ballot.
However, in these isolated incidents, the two officials were captured contravening the policies of handling ballot boxes.
SA Elections 2019: What happened in Benoni and Ermelo?
Depositing ballot papers long after the party agents have left. The so called IEC officials. pic.twitter.com/p9Xy8fvBmL
— Bantu Holomisa (@BantuHolomisa) May 7, 2019
In Ermelo, Mpumalanga, the EFF’s party agent, Jabu Thwala, was quick to haul out his phone and expose the woman as she started placing ballot papers in an unsealed ballot box.
“While we were busy escorting the IEC ballot box to the centre, then I noticed the IEC officials putting the ballot paper inside the ballot box. That box was open and they were busy making crosses on the ANC square there so from there then I took the video.” Thwala said.
The IEC has since confirmed that the woman, whose name has been withheld for safety reasons, has been dismissed, effective immediately.
Empty the ballot boxes and then count the ballot papers. Ask a higher structure of the IEC to supply the correct number of the allocated ballots of this VD. pic.twitter.com/jFnUeLVvO3
— Bantu Holomisa (@BantuHolomisa) May 8, 2019
In Benoni, Ekurhuleni, a similar situation ensued when EFF party agents captured an official with three ballot boxes. The official was probed by the agents on why he failed to follow protocol on the removal of the ballot box.
Once the box leaves a polling station, officials have been instructed to await a police officer to escort them to the vehicle, ensuring the safety of the sealed ballot box.
The IEC, in its media briefing, urged officials to practice extreme caution when handling sealed ballot boxes, and any tampering of the voting process carries serious jail time.