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'Registration turnout could have been better'

The IEC says preliminary figures show over 1.2m people visited stations countrywide.

A man registers to vote at Mew Way Hall in Khayelitsha on 8 February. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN.

The commission says its preliminary figures show more than 1.2 million people visited its stations across the country.

Eligible voters will still be able to register or check their details at municipal offices before South Africans go to the polls on 7 May.

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

The IEC's Kate Bapela says now the election date has been announced, it makes the organisation's work more focused.

"It will be very interesting to watch those figures and see how we have done, especially now that the president has announced the election date."

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

Meanwhile, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says despite challenges at some registration sites, he's pleased with how officers handled the situation.

"There were areas of concern but we were prepared for them and police were on the ground."

Police were on high alert at various points across the country, including Bekkersdal, Bronkhorstspruit, Sebokeng and parts of the Western Cape where residents had threatened to boycott the registration drive in an attempt to get government to listen to their demands.

TEMPERS FLARE ACROSS GAUTENG

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

Tempers flared on Saturday 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.

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

The first registration weekend also suffered similar disruptions.

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 on Saturday.

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

But yesterday, the ANC said it was happy with the turnout of residents in the area.

The ruling party was on a door-to-door campaign in the township on Sunday afternoon.

The ANC's David Makhura said the situation was normal.

The area was the site of violent protests last week over poor service delivery.

Residents said they had 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.

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.

WESTERN CAPE

While voter registration at stations proceeded smoothly, it was a drama filled weekend for some Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials in the Western Cape.

It was a relatively slow weekend at some IEC points.

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

A voter registration station in Sea Point in Cape Town. Picture: Graeme Raubenheimer/EWN.

Many registration centres in Khayelitsha saw less than 200 people turn out while less than 50 voters' details were captured at the Legacy Centre Kayamandi near Stellenbosch where violence erupted on Saturday.

Police were called in when disgruntled residents, angry about a lack of service delivery in the area, went on the rampage, threatening to set the voter registration building alight.

The IEC's Nosipho Mahiji said, as a result, not many people arrived to register.

"They came to our voting station, took all the IEC banners and arrows and told us to close the station. They threatened us and said if we continued to register people they would burn down the building with us in it."

Meanwhile, community members in Manenberg had to run for cover after rival gangs started shooting at each other.

Democratic Alliance (DA) member Farieda Adams said the situation was tense.

"We were opening the gates and then there was shooting. Two gangsters were shooting at one another. Later on, the shooting came from one side and after that they were shooting directly at us."

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille cancelled a visit to Manenberg as a result.

Her actions were slammed by the African National Congress (ANC), with the ruling party's provincial leader Marius Fransman criticising the premier's decision to back out of the visit.

Fransman said Zille owed it to the community to resolve the gang problem, describing her cancellation as unacceptable.

"I was quite shocked that Helen Zille refused to come to Manenberg because she was scared for her own security. The reality is that our people live in these communities. It's important for the state to be in our communities."

But Adams defended the DA leader saying, "they were shooting directly at us, that's why we asked her not come in. If our lives are in danger and our councillors' lives are in danger, it's very dangerous for her."

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