Final voter registration push

Today is the last day eligible voters can register at their voting stations for this year's elections.

A Khayelitsha resident registers for this year's general elections on 8 February. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is urging South Africans who are not yet registered to vote to make their way to a registration station.

Today is the last day eligible voters can register at their voting stations for this year's general elections which take place on 7 May.

An official proclamation of the date is however expected later this month.

From tomorrow, South Africans will have to register at their municipalities during office hours.

Most of the 22,000 voting stations across the country opened on time yesterday but some registration points in the Free State and Gauteng remained closed due to on-going protests.

Flooding caused by heavy rainfall in the North West province, Limpopo and the Northern Cape resulted in a number of voting stations being forced to open late.

The IEC's Sy Mamabolo says the IEC is grateful for the help received from community members and political parties in most areas which allowed for a smooth start to the final registration drive.

"We want to encourage people to go to stations early so everyone has an opportunity to register."

Stations for registration will open at 8am and close at 5pm.

The 2014 polls will take place just 10 days after the 27 April anniversary of the 1994 elections.

GAUTENG

Community unrest was to blame for disruptions at two stations in Bekkersdal on Gauteng's West Rand.

Tempers flared yesterday when police fired rubber bullets to disperse angry community members who were trying to disrupt voter registration in the area.

Angry residents allegedly threw petrol bombs and threatened staff.

Bekkersdal residents say no voter registration will take place until the dissolution of the Westonaria Local Municipality.

A Bekkersdal resident walks past a voting station on 8 February. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

This is the second time voter registration has been affected in the area.

The first registration weekend also suffered similar disruptions.

Speaking at a voter registration drive in Dobsonville, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane condemned what she called "voter intimidation" in Bekkersdal.

She said she respects residents' right to protest but also maintained the right to vote must also be respected by all.

Meanwhile, residents in townships in Bronkhorstspruit boycotted the drive.

Voter registration stations in Rethabiseng, Zithobeni and Nkangala opened on time but IEC officials say they didn't register a single person.

A meeting was apparently held with community members on Friday night warning residents not to go near the registration stations.

The area has been the site of violent protests this week over poor service delivery.

Residents say they've gone without these services for up to a month now.

Protesters torched a police station, library, municipal office and clinic in the area.

A total of 39 people were arrested by police and charged with vandalising state property.

On Wednesday night, protesters took to the streets again and burnt Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) voter registration posters with some saying they won't vote in the upcoming elections because government doesn't care about them.

Residents in Hebron, near Ga-Rankuwa in Pretoria, where demonstrators are protesting against their local councillor, decided to call off their service delivery protest for the weekend.

One resident says people will register to vote because it is their democratic right to do so.

"The people have decided to stop the protests to register for the elections so we can change the ruling government."

WESTERN CAPE

In the Western Cape, the IEC had to deal with some challenges including gang violence in Manenberg and protests near Stellenbosch.

The ANC was the only party stationed outside the Mew Way Hall in Khayelitsha on 8 February. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN.

An IEC official in Blikkiesdorp, one of Cape Town's poorest and most crime-riddled areas. says he's amazed at the large number of young people registering to vote.

Blikkiesdorp was built as a temporary relocation area in Delft in 2007 for people on housing waiting lists.

While most residents have not moved from the community since,crime levels are soaring in the area.

Community leaders say government needs to urgently step in and assist residents.

Residents say they are praying this year's elections will bring change to their crime-riddled community as they are tired of hearing empty promises from politicians.

Meanwhile, voter registration weekend was relatively slow in Khayelitsha with many stations registering lower numbers than expected.

IEC officials, who'd been preparing for a large turnout, said the number of new registrations was disappointingly low.

While shopping centres local taverns and streets were bustling with activity many residents made it clear they won't be voting.

Some locals told Eyewitness News they simply don't care about the upcoming election.

One resident said he hasn't registered to vote because he doesn't care.

"It is not important."

Another said people aren't interested.

"There is so much crime, why must we vote?"