Pretoria – With a record voter turnout of more than 50 percent, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Saturday declared the 2011 municipal elections free and fair.
IEC chairperson, Brigalia Bam, announced the official local government election results in Pretoria following Wednesday’s poll.
President Jacob Zuma, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe were among those who attended the announcement at the IEC’s Results Operation Centre (ROC).
In terms of the law the IEC has to announce the results within seven days after an election. The voter turnout for this election was 57.6 percent with spoilt ballots standing at 1.89 percent. More than 200 000 volunteers were deployed by the IEC across the country to help run the election as 234 municipalities including eight metropolitan councils.
The results showed a clear lead by the African National Congress (ANC) with 62.0 percent of the votes and 5 633 council seats nationally, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 23.9 percent of the votes and 1 555 council seats.
The ANC will control 198 councils including seven metropolitan areas. The DA won an outright majority in the hotly contested Cape Town metro clinching 61 percent of the votes and 135 of the 221 seats in the municipality. The ANC got 73 seats while the Congress of the People (COPE) managed to win three.
The National Freedom Party (NFP) managed to wrestle control of two local municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, despite being formed three months ago. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) managed to secure five seats in its stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal.
COPE did not win a single council, but they did however win about 236 seats in municipal councils across the country.
IEC Chief Electoral Officer, Pansy Tlakula, said 97 percent of voters surveyed by the South African Human Research Council (HSRC) after the poll said they found the elections to have been free and fair.
On Saturday Bam thanked all the political parties taking part in the election for having demonstrated tolerance in the period leading up to 18 May.
She said South Africa’s multi party democracy is increasingly being recognised throughout the world with the IEC having conducted eight credible national and provincial elections since 1994.
This week’s local government election was yet another “milestone” in the evolution of South Africa’s young democracy she said.
Speaking after the announcement, President Zuma said South Africans “should be proud to have stayed on course since 1994” with regard to democratic norms and systems.
“We can boldly declare that our democracy has matured in only 17 years…the regular elections that we hold prove our commitment to the clause in the Freedom Charter that says no government can just claim authority unless it was based on the will of the people,” Zuma said.
He said the voter turnout of 57.6 percent had defied predictions of voter apathy among South Africans.
“This is very impressive and indicates that South Africans understand the crucial role they must play in determining who governs them and how they govern. The people identified service delivery as an issue. They articulated this in various community meetings and also through protest action in some areas, long before the elections.
“They decided that this election would be about basic services such as water, electricity, housing, sanitation, roads and functional refuse removal amongst others. It came down to bread and butter issues as any municipal election should. This indicates how much our citizens, especially the new voters, understand democracy, and how much they are able to relate their votes to their own conditions. They want the vote to work for them to improve their lives,” said Zuma.
Zuma went on to congratulate all political parties who have won seats in the elections. He thanked them for the peaceful nature they conducted themselves during the elections. Free political activity was an important barometer of political maturity and political tolerance in any society, he said.
“From this moment on the lives of our new councillors will change. You have to accept that you are servants of the people and that you account to all the people in your wards.
“You are accountable to people who voted for you and those who did not vote for you because councillors must serve all the South African people”.
The Municipal Demarcation Board said the election will be remembered as the most successful not only in terms of the impressive voter turnout but also as significant in deepening democracy in South Africa. – Chris Bathembu, BuaNews
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