Making a mark against all odds

Special votes took place two days prior the actual voting date of August, 3.  We have one special voter telling us about his tedious journey on the day his voting, 1st of August.  

26_Special Votes

BOX TICKED: Shaun in his workplace a day after he voted at Parkhurst. Photo: Sisa Canca

Putting a cross in a ballot box may seem like the easiest thing for most people, but Shaun* is one of those individuals who need assistance to make his mark. He cannot make a cross in a box owing to his physical disability which sees him confined to a wheelchair with little use of his arms and legs.  At election time, he needs someone else to help him through the process.

Shaun is a 53-year-old white South African man who believes in the power of the ballot box.  He’s been voting religiously since 1994 despite his inability to write on his own or even hold a pen with his hand.  For him voting is a daunting process that involves being pushed around in his wheelchair and waiting in a queue.  He says he hates the process but also feels that he needs to play a role in deciding on the governance of the country.

This past Monday, August 1, Shaun woke up early, as he usually does, to cast his special vote at the Parkhust Primary School in Randburg.  Arriving at the voting station with his helper, Zodwa, Shaun asked one of the IEC officials to make a cross on his behalf but without giving any reason the official refused.

“No IEC representative could make a cross for me”, said Shaun.  Zodwa came to his rescue, making the mark on his behalf.  Shaun says it was the first time he had had someone from IEC decline to assist him which made him feel as if the voting process is not accommodating of people with disabilities.

His says he is not happy with various issues facing the country like the corruption, lack of jobs and the contracting economy.  Shaun says he wants to be part of driving change in South Africa.   “We need change, the corruption and all these other things are becoming impossible to bear now.  Without our collective votes, that change will never come,” Shaun said.

Shaun was among a record 700 000 registered special voters for this year’s municipal elections.  Those are the people who, by law, applied for special voting because they couldn’t travel to the voting station on Election Day for a variety of reasons including disability or pregnancy. Others registered because they couldn’t be in their respective regions on the day and thus voted on predetermined special voting days, August 1 and 2.


Related articles

Wits Vuvuzela; The 2016 elections so far, 3 August 2016

Wits Vuvuzela; Parties wrap up elections campaigns, 1 August 2016

Wits Vuvuzela; Elections leave LGBTI voters feeling voiceless, 2 August 2016

ELECTIONS: Being ‘special’ is not a privilege



SPECIAL ENOUGH: Jermaine and his guide dog Ygor are 'able' to participate in these elections.

SPECIAL ENOUGH: Jermaine George and his guide dog Ygor are ‘able’ to participate in the elections.






















A ‘special’ vote is not a privilege to a disgruntled blind student.

Jermaine George, BMus student, said he chose not to use the special vote provision for disabled people because he prefers to fit in with society instead of being kept apart.

George said his main grievance with the special vote provision is that “your vote is not completely confidential, you have to share it with whoever is helping you.”

George said that while the ANC succeeded in giving disabled people some form of independence, he added they also alienated and separated disabled people from society because there was not enough education to deal with disabled people.

“It’s easier to ignore disabled people than to interact with them,” he said. “They want to get us out of the way so that they can get to the rest of the people.”

George said that he understands the special provision when given to the elderly because of their lack of mobility.  However the blind, the deaf and those in wheelchairs are not slowed in mobility or intellect.

Dr Anlia Pretorius, head of the Disability Unit at Wits University, said: “our students are very independent and geared up and can do this on their own”.

She said some political parties have reached out to the disabled, with the Democratic Alliance publishing their election manifesto in braille and sending it for distribution to the disability unit.

While George is not sure about who he is voting for and his decision will be based on infrastructure, education and the economy.

“With those three things, the rest will sort itself out,” George said.

George can often be seen on campus with his guide dog Ygor. He is regularly found producing music or song-writing at the disability unit’s computer centre.

“I just wanna compete on par with everyone,” he said.