South Africa: register to vote!

6 February 2009

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has called on South Africans who are not registered to vote, or need to change their details on the voter's roll, to do so this weekend - the final voter registration weekend before the 2009 general elections.

Voting stations will be open for registration from 8am to 5pm.

President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to announce the date for the general elections in the next few days. Delivering his state of the nation address in Cape Town on Friday, Motlanthe said he would announce the date after finishing consultations with the IEC and the provincial premiers.

South Africa has become a well-functioning democracy in a comparatively short time, with two successful national and provincial elections being held since 1994.

'Shaping our own destiny'

Motlanthe said that peaceful and dignified elections were the surest guarantee of the continued survival and deepening of the country's democracy, and urged all eligible South Africans to register and to vote in the coming elections, so that "we can shape our destiny ourselves."

"We owe our being as a democracy to the people of South Africa who, on 27 April 1994, for the first time collectively took their destiny into their own hands," Motlanthe told Parliament on Friday. "Through that simple but profound act of casting a ballot for a government of all the people of our country, we turned our backs on a past that dehumanised us all."

During the previous voter registration weekend, held in November, there were 1.6-million new registrations, with a further 1.7-million people applying for registration in a new voting district.

Check your details on the voter's roll

To register as a new voter, or to change one's personal details, potential voters should visit their nearest voting stations and bring along their bar-coded identity document. The entire registration process should only take about 10 minutes.

  • To find out if you are on the voter's roll, SMS your ID number to 32810 or visit the IEC website.

According to the commission, there are currently over 20-million registered voters on South Africa's national voters' roll, together with 137 registered political parties.

"In a proportional representation system such as ours, every vote counts," said Chief Electoral Officer Pansy Tlakula. "I trust that South Africans will come out in their numbers, firstly to register and then cast their votes as we together continue to shape our amazing country's future."

Election preparations

In preparation for the election, the commission is recruiting and training 59 115 election official to help conduct the registrations, while it has already started procuring vast quantities of materials to be used to persuade South Africans to exercise their voting rights.

"These include 20-million voter registration forms, 300 000 street pole posters, 44 000 stationary packs and 40 000 banners," said Tlakula. "In addition to this, we have begun work on enhancing our IT infrastructure to ensure the smooth running of the registration, voting and results processes."

The commission has also replaced its aging fleet of scanners, and now has 30 000 new units, which will be used for the registration weekend.

Free and fair elections

IEC chairperson Brigalia Bam said it was important for all the commission's systems and employees responsible for the management of the election to be independent, impartial, transparent and accountable in their functioning.

She stressed that the upcoming general elections would be free and fair, and would not be compromised by political interference.

The IEC was formally established in terms of Chapter 9 of the country's Constitution and the Electoral Commission Act of 1996.

When the IEC was established in 1997, South Africa did not have a national common voters' roll. The first voters roll, compiled by the IEC in 1999, contained more than 18-million names. Ten years later, the number had grown to more than 20-million.

The country also did not have any voting districts until the IEC created 14 650 of them between June and November 1998, for the first registration weekend. This year the commission has increased the stations to 19 705.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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