The Congress of the People on Sunday urged communities engulfed by protests to exercise their rights and register to vote instead of boycotting the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) registration drive this weekend.
“Boycotting voter registration is not the answer to the problems of communities. The answer, in fact, is for everyone who qualifies to register. Registered voters can strategise how best to use their votes,” Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said on Sunday.
“For communities that have been overlooked and forgotten, now is the time to register and enjoy the power of bargaining with the votes the community can muster. Voters can indeed exercise their power to improve their situation through the ballot box,” he said.
The first day of the IEC voter registration drive saw officials barred from registering voters in some parts of the country. IEC chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said police had recommended that IEC staff be withdrawn from some areas for their own safety.
Incidents of protest affected voting stations in areas including Mahikeng and Marikana in North West; Malamulelele, Musina, Mogalakwena, and Northhampton, in Limpopo; Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanaga; Khayelitsha in the Western Cape; Denver, George Koch, and Orange Farm in Gauteng; Ethekwini and Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal; Nelson Mandela Bay, Butterworth, and OR Tambo in the Eastern Cape; Pampierstad in the Northern Cape; and Maluti-a-Phofung in the Free State.
“While the electoral commission had anticipated some disruptions to registration in areas due to community activism, it is saddened to note that in some instances protesters appear to have targeted the registration stations and threatened IEC officials,” Moepya told reporters in Pretoria on Saturday.
“In some isolated number of areas IEC officials have had to be withdrawn at the recommendation of the South African Police Service to ensure their safety. They will return to duty as soon as the situation in these areas is brought under control by security forces.”
Bloem said Cope sympathised with communities experiencing difficulties and poor service delivery.
“For those who are very dissatisfied with service delivery, it is important to remember that one third of all municipalities are totally dysfunctional. To rectify the situation voters will need to choose councillors who have the ability to do the job. The solution is not to withhold one’s vote but to use votes to support capable and committed candidates who can make a difference,” he said.
The IEC voter registration ends on Sunday.