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Elections start on chaotic note

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image EBC staff ferrying ballot booths to other classrooms. (Pic: Linda Jele)

MANZINI – The voting process for Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) staff and security forces started on a chaotic note as thousands were turned back due to the non-availability of ballot papers.


The EBC had set aside yesterday as a special voting day for its staff and security forces.
The numbers of the staff that was supposed to have voted yesterday could not be confirmed, but the EBC had previously confirmed that it had engaged over 4 000 people for the general elections.


The voting took place in Manzini where staff from all the regions had been allocated different polling stations. However, only a handful were able to cast their votes.
Elections officers who were in charge of the process told the voters to return today as there were no ballot papers at the voting centres.
The commission had announced that the voting process would start at 2pm, but hundreds had started flocking in at the stated centres as early as 10am from all over the country. They queued for eight hours and they were told to go back home at about 6pm.


First, the process was delayed for over an hour and upon commencement, there was pushing and shoving as the voters tried to get into the voting room in order to return home on time. The delay, some officials alleged, had been caused by the fact that some presiding officers, who were supposed to conduct the voting, had not arrived and there were no ballot papers in quite a number of the stations.
The voters grew impatient and demanded answers on why they were made to wait for many hours without an explanation. Some elections officers at first explained that ballot papers had not been transported to the voting stations as there was no transport.


Elections officer for the Manzini region, Mbonisi Bhembe, told voters under his station to be patient as they were making means to address the situation. Others decided to leave the voting stations before the process started saying they would arrive late at their respective homes. 
By 3pm, EBC officials were still setting up the voting stations. Under the Manzini region, only Lobamba Lomdzala and Mafutseni voters were able to vote. Under the Lubombo region, places like KaLanga and a few others voted, but other voters were turned back after ballot papers ran out. They were told to return today for continuation of the process.


Voters were made to queue while waiting for the arrival of the ballot papers, but at around 5:10pm, elections officers announced that they had not been able to get the ballot papers. They requested that the process be continued this morning.
Disgruntled voters accepted the announcement with murmurs and others said they would not return to the voting stations, citing ill-preparedness on the side of the EBC. “I cannot return here tomorrow as I would have to be setting up a voting station for the community I have been assigned to oversee. I wonder if the Primary Elections would be a success when the commission cannot handle a handful of us,” a presiding officer, who did not want to be named, said.


The EBC employed about 4 000 Swazis as elections officers, returning officers, presiding officers and clerks. Members of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force, that employs about 3 000 officers, the Royal Swaziland Police and His Majesty’s Correctional Services were among those who had been called to vote yesterday.

 

EBC confirms shortage of material

MANZINI – The EBC last night confirmed that there was a shortage of voting material at polling stations.


The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Public Relations Officer Sabelo Dlamini said: “Voting continued, but there were challenges in some cases, caused by a delay in the delivery of some voting material.”


The security forces and the staff that has been engaged by the EBC, estimated to be above 4 000, were supposed to cast their votes yesterday, however, the exercise failed to take off smoothly as ballot papers ran out. It was announced at the polling centres that voters had to return today to be able to cast their votes.

 

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