Pansy Tlakula

Pansy Tlakula

The voter registration campaign was one of the most successful we have ever had. We managed to register a total of 3,1 million new voters, 78 percent of whom are between 18 and 29 years.

These figures debunk the myth that young people are not interested in voting.

The voters roll for the coming elections now stands at 23 million.

These impressive figures were produced by our registration officers who are ordinary men and women, who are not given enough recognition for their hard work.

Our officers have to wake up at the crack of dawn, and most of them have to travel long distances to the stations to conduct voter registration for the whole day.

In the evening, they have to travel to municipal electoral offices to dock the scanners they used to register voters into the computers so that the data can be transferred to the national office for the compilation of the numbers of people they have registered.

This process involves the downloading of 20000 files, often simultaneously.

As these officials go about their task of registering voters, they are often confronted with challenges, most of which are not of their making.

For example, in one of the provinces, the service provider was late in delivering the tents to be used as voting stations. Instead of waiting, our officers improvised and registered voters from the boot of a van they had used to transport registration material.

In another area, the owner of a shack allowed our officers to use her shack as a voting station while waiting for the delivery of a tent.

At times, as happened this past weekend, our officers have to deal with very difficult customers - political parties, voters and the community.

In some provinces, even the protest marches did not deter them from registering voters. In provinces where there were protest marches, which resulted in the unwillingness of the owners of the buildings we had rented as voting stations to give us access, our officers registered people from roadsides and the boots of their cars.

In another province, an official was chased away from the voting station by protesters, and later he realised that he had left the scanner behind and he turned back to fetch it.

In the same province, upon hearing about the approaching protest march, our official ran for dear life. Hot on his heels were the reservists who were supposed to protect the officers and secure the voting station.

In one of the provinces, our registration official could not hide his excitement when members of a political party he supports visited the voting station and offered him a party T-shirt in full glare of all present, which he gladly accepted. We immediately relieved him of his position, because while we fully respect the right of every citizen to associate freely, we expect our staff to be impartial. The Constitution requires us to do so.

We also had to relieve a staff member of his duties because he was so drunk that he disrupted the registration process.

In one remote village our registration staff had to deal with a solitary protester, who sat on the side of the road and pelted passing cars with stones, apparently in protest against the fact that his church was not used as a voting station.

In another village, voter registration opened an entrepreneurial opportunity for a man who transported voters to stations across the overflowing river with a manually operated cable ferry at a cost of R5.

So amazing was the commitment of some of our registration officers that in one province, a highly pregnant official experienced labour pains during registration. She was rushed to hospital and gave birth to a bouncing "voter registration" baby girl a few hours later.

We also had a tragedy in North West where our supervisor, Cholohelo Sereisho, died in a car accident on his way to the voting station. Our sympathies go to his family. May his soul rest in peace.

In November last year, we said that we would have a voter's roll of 22 million for the 2009 elections. We have passed our target by more than a million. We thank all our colleagues for this achievement.

Le ka moso.

l Advocate Tlakula is the chief electoral officer.