An Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) deputy presiding officer has been removed from a Benoni, Ekurhuleni, voting station for allowing a party agent to assist in the transfer of special votes material.
The commission said on Tuesday this followed an investigation into a video that went viral on Monday showing an agent helping the official.
Special votes started on Monday across the country for over 700,000 eligible applicants.
The IEC said party agents were not allowed to handle electoral material with their duty only being to observe operations and raise objections where applicable.
“The transfer of the special votes from bags to ballot boxes is normal procedure. Ballot bags are used to collect special votes during home visits as ballot boxes are impractical for home visits.
“At the end of the day of home visits, the special votes collected are then transferred to a ballot box for secure storage and to empty the ballot bag for use on the second day of special voting (7 May).
“However, the handling of any electoral material by any party agent is strictly prohibited. They are only allowed to observe operations and raise objections. The deputy presiding officer who was overseeing the process has therefore been removed,” the IEC said in a statement.
The dismissal of the deputy presiding officer, however, does not mean the integrity of the special votes that were being transferred was undermined, according to the commission.
REPORTS OF UNSTAMPED BALLOT PAPERS
The breach happened when special votes were being transferred from bags to ballot boxes, which the IEC reiterated was normal procedure.
The IEC said special votes undergo strict verification processes prior to the counting of ballots through the double envelope system.
Meanwhile, the commission said following the start of the special votes it would also look into reports of instances where the double envelope system was not used and ballot papers were apparently not stamped at the back, which would made them null and void.
“Depending on the outcome of the investigation the commission will make a decision on whether these votes are included in the count or not.
“The commission appreciates the vigilance of party agents and voters in monitoring the election process and in bringing to its attention potential problems.
“This should be done firstly at the voting station through the presiding officer and, if not resolved, then it should be raised through the existing channels, including the party liaison structures. Providing as much detail of any incident – including where and when it occurred – would significantly speed up the investigation process.”