The Citizen (Gauteng)

Election to cost R1.9bn

IEC: NEARLY A THIRD OF MONEY TO BE SPENT ON RECRUITING NEW VOTERS Commission says it is not worried about a low turnout at local government polls later this year.

- Brian Sokutu brians@citizen.co.za

Tabling a revised 2021-22 budget of R1.9 billion to cover the cost of running South Africa’s first post Covid-19 local government elections this year, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is confident it can deliver free and fair polls, with 31% being invested in new generation voting management devices.

Addressing the parliament­ary home affairs portfolio committee on the IEC’s annual budget and performanc­e plan – including administra­tion, electoral operations and party funding – IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo conceded the country’s fiscal climate and a battered economy had led to drastic cuts in commission operations – amounting to R663 million.

The budget will see 27% spent on electoral operations, staff expansion and events, with 10% going to registrati­on, voting material, warehousin­g and distributi­on costs. Four percent has been allocated to communicat­ion and media.

Said Mamabolo: “The strategy on voter education had to be adjusted to minimise the interactio­n of voters – avoiding cross transmissi­on of the virus.

“Covid-19 measures for the elections, like non-pharmaceut­ical protocols, will be in place.

“What we are looking at are measures proposed [by] the national party liaison committee on how to use special votes creatively to decongest voting stations on election day.

“We are looking at people of a particular age and those with comorbidit­ies being granted special votes – running special votes for a greater number of days.”

Strategy on voter education had to be adjusted to minimise interactio­n of voters. Sy Mamabolo IEC chief electoral officer

Turning to voter education, he said: “Our voter education programme is going to be largely on radio through the SABC and community radio stations

“There will also be a significan­t proportion of voter education happening via social media channels.

“We will still retain our municipal outreach coordinato­rs, with a capacity to do face-to-face interventi­on.

“But that won’t be the mainstay element of the voter registrati­on campaign.”

While the IEC was concerned about a low voter turnout in national elections, Mamabolo said local government elections drew larger numbers.

“During the 2011 and 2016 polls, we are hovered at around a 58% voter turnout.

“It is our desire and hope through putting resources into a communicat­ion campaign and the voter education programme that we will register at least 60% of voters.

“The voter management device will have an offline functional­ity, which means we will cover areas without a broadband.

“The system will ensure that the person is in the correct voters’ roll and in the right ward.

“When we get back to office, we’ll upload the data into the network and send the confirmati­on to the voter.

“We expect to receive the first consignmen­t of these devices for training in the middle of the month, having procuring 40 000 devices – sufficient for registrati­on purposes,” said Mamabolo.

Said IEC chair Glen Mashinini: “The budget includes key financial resources and the quantum required to deliver the country’s fifth local government election.

“Usually, the cost of elections is spread over two or more years, including two registrati­on weekends.

“We are now living under abnormal conditions due to the pandemic, which has had an impact on our lives and challenged the fiscus.

“Major activities relating to the elections have had to be customised and adapted, with our budget now compressed into a single financial year.

“But we are happy that the process of engagement with National Treasury has already begun.

“With 23 000 voting stations around the country, we have had to ensure enough staff – about 58 000 officials – to be recruited to assist with registrati­on alone.” –

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