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South Africa’s electoral commission dismisses claims that voters must have their own pens at voting stations

IN SHORT: Messages circulating on social media claim that South Africans need to bring their own black ballpoint pens to the polls on 29 May 2024 - because the ink in the pens provided “evaporates” within a short period of time. This is false.

“Hi, if you decide to vote, PLEASE bring your OWN BLACK BALLPOINT PEN,” begins a message sent to Africa Check by many of our WhatsApp subscribers

The message claims that there is “evidence” that the ink in the pens provided for voting day “evaporates” within a short period of time.

On 29 May, South Africans will vote in national and provincial elections. For the first time, there will be three ballot papers instead of the usual two.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), manages the elections of national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies and provides information on the voting process in the country.

The message, also circulating in Afrikaans, continues: 

This means that there are names and addresses of those entitled to vote legally in the boxes, but without a vote!!  Now it can be marked at will by ANYONE with an undoctored pen where they want it marked??.  With our ward election 3 months ago, the problem was picked up, and the counselors have now FOLLOWED it up and gone through it again, and unfortunately it's the same story AGAIN.  So take your own black pen with you.

We found the same claim making the rounds on Facebook. Other versions claim that voters need to take a black ballpoint pen to the polls because they will only be given a pencil to vote and then “they” will “simply erase your mark”.

But are any of these claims true? No.

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BlackPenIEC_False

‘It constitutes disinformation’ says IEC

A quick Google search of the phrases “black ballpoint pen” and “ink evaporates” led us to social media posts by the IEC.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the IEC debunked the claim and labelled the circulating screenshots “FALSE”. 

“There is no truth to this content whatsoever; it constitutes disinformation,” the 25 May post says.

“Pens will be provided by the Electoral Commission at all voting stations for voters to mark their ballots in #SAelections24,” the post said.

“Please take care not to share this disinformation further. Report any instances of disinformation or misinformation at http://real411.org.”

The IEC also posted the same screenshots and message on its official Facebook account.

With the elections fast approaching, false claims about the elections and voting are likely to spread on social media. To help you cut through the noise, head to Africa Check’s South Africa Election Information Hub.

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