The 75 SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) observers who volunteered to monitor the election’s accessibility for disabled people report an incident-free election, though some polling stations were unfriendly to those with disabilities.
Several Saiba observers reported some polling stations – notably schools – had virtually no facilities for the disabled who had to be carried in their wheelchairs to the polls.
“I’m proud of Sabia,” wrote one Saiba observer. “If it was on the ballot, I would vote for it.”
“Saiba is taking our democracy and our people seriously,” said another.
“I must say that Saiba has done well by participating in this electoral process. Saiba has been noticed, acknowledged and appreciated while in the field,” said another.
Saiba observers were scattered throughout the country at polling booths, and many were asked to stay and assist in the observation of the counting process.
“The IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) can learn a few things from us, and hopefully improve a few things the next time,” reported Saiba member Greta Hart.
Another Saiba member monitored five polling stations and reported that four of them had no observers present.
There were a few hiccups – one observer posting pictures of himself standing alongside party political activists. This was very quickly corrected by the Saiba observer organisers, who reminded their colleagues that their role must be seen to be independent, and not partisan, even where these pictures were innocently done. A real-time WhatsApp chat group allowed observers to share notes and
Saiba CEO Nicolaas van Wyk says this was Saiba’s first ever participation as election observers and the response from the police and IEC has been excellent.
“It was a learning experience for us,” he says. “We will now be preparing a report for the IEC based on our collective observations of the accessibility of polling stations for the disabled.”
There were some reports from Saiba election observers of unregistered voters turning up and trying to vote by force. This was quickly brought under control by the police.
Saiba member and election project leader Ogbonnia Okojoseph reported that the election observer initiative was an outstanding success and raised the profile of Saiba as an organisation, earning it respect from the IEC and police. “This I am sure will be the first of many elections in which we as an organisation are involved.”