by Makwena Manaka
Under cloudy skies, doors open early at Steve Biko Hall to allow entry for several early bird voters in Makhanda, Eastern Cape. The Makana Municipality’s Ward 12 voting station is located at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR) and caters mostly for students who will cast ballots in the national elections.
IEC staff usher voters into the sheltered passage of Steve Biko Hall. Surnames alphabetically divide voters into two cues and political party agents from the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and African Transformation Movement (ATM) are present as onlookers. A police van is subtly parked outside the building alongside two cars. A police officer quietly stands with his arms crossed by the door. One queue moves swiftly while the other steadily grows – mostly due to the many surnames that start with the letter M.
Nearby Steve Biko Hall, other voters walked in and out of two substations in the Great Hall. Asanda Cibane, a third-year law student from KwaZulu-Natal, speaks with delight at the speed of the voting process and says that “it didn’t seem like [she] was voting for national elections.”
Although Cibane is registered to vote in KwaZulu-Natal and is unable to cast the provincial ballot, she recognises the impact of participating in the elections. She hopes that political parties stay true to bettering South Africa.
“My hopes are that the political parties actually stick to what they campaigned for and to their mandate and not deviate from it. Hopefully we will get the change that they have been preaching about.”
UCKAR alumni and ANC party agent, Siyabonga Jam, echoes satisfaction with the IEC’S voting stations. Jam says that he has been looking on with the EFF, DA and ATM agents to ensure that the elections on campus are free and fair. “We have been working very well, and hand in hand, with those comrades and fighters.”
The afternoon’s drizzle soon buckets down and voters dart from the adjacent Prince Alfred Road to the voting stations as quickly as the queues are moving.
Praise “Smo” Mathebula wears a red beret that has, in the last 5 years, characterised EFF supporters. Mathebula is from Mpumalanga and has only voted in the local elections of 2016. He describes his first national elections as “overwhelming”.
“I see a new dawn for South Africa. The voter registration indicated that we might see something that we have not seen before and I’m hoping for a change,” he says.
Mathebula hopes for economic policies that prioritize the elevation of South Africa’s black majority because it has “been on the side lines, and sold ideologies and promises that never came to pass.”
UCKAR Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) member and party agent Tiego Thotse says that the elections are “going well” in Ward 12 and hopes that they “will be free and fair.” Thotse expresses hope for the DA.
In the final hour, police presence continues without incident as voters drip into the voting stations. Johanna Mothata, an accounting student originally from Johannesburg, is among the final hour voters. She had spent her day resting after she studied throughout Tuesday night and the early hours of Election Day. Although initially deterred from voting by the afternoon rains, Mothata eventually left her room to “do something great for the country.”
With voting done and dusted, by 9pm cut-off time, the students will have eyes fixed on the IEC’s ballot count. Participation in the elections in Makhanda serves as a microcosm to the exercise of the Constitutional right throughout the country. Election Day remains an important tool for social cohesion for many South Africans.