A video of ballot boxes piled high in storerooms has been circulating on social media in South Africa since 3 June 2024. Users claim that the boxes contain “uncounted” votes from the country’s 29 May elections.

The boxes carry the logo of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, or IEC.

“Uncounted sealed boxes discovered stored away,” reads a typical caption. “IEC, we didn’t stand in long queues for our votes to be hidden.”

At one point, the videographer demonstrates that each box is held closed with a cable tie.

The results of South Africa’s national and provincial elections were announced on 2 June. The viral video appeared online the following day.

The election results were historic. The African National Congress lost the majority it had held since 1994, receiving only 40.2% of the national vote. The Democratic Alliance (DA) won 21.8% and the newcomer uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) – led by former president Jacob Zuma – received 14.6%.

The DA was re-elected to government in the Western Cape province. In KwaZulu-Natal, the MK Party won 45.6% of the provincial vote.

Some social media users claim that the “hidden” boxes contain votes cast in the Western Cape. Others say they affected MK Party’s results in KwaZulu-Natal.

Variations on the claim include:

In mid-June the MK Party filed an application with the electoral court to have the results of the election nullified, claiming it was not “free and fair”. A few days earlier, the constitutional court had rejected the party’s bid to block the first session of parliament.

But does the video show sealed and hidden ballot boxes full of votes that the IEC did not count? We checked.

‘In the absence of evidence, do not spread false information’ – IEC

In the first few seconds of the video you can see the province, municipal code and voting district (VD) number written on the form printed on the IEC ballot boxes.

These handwritten details show that the votes inside were cast in KwaZulu-Natal, not the Western Cape.

We were also able to identify two VD numbers: 43950898 and 4395084, both in the Msunduzi municipality of KwaZulu-Natal (municipal code KZN 225).

We looked up the national vote data for the two districts on the IEC’s 2024 results portal. In both, a clear majority of votes went to the MK Party (62% in the first district and 72% in the second). For Msunduzi as a whole, the MK Party won 52.6% of the vote.

The video is clearly not proof that the IEC “rigged” the results in the Western Cape – the votes were cast in KwaZulu-Natal. And if it shows an attempt to “lock up” votes for the MK Party, the attempt wasn’t effective.

The day the claim appeared online, the IEC took to X (formerly Twitter) to dismiss it. Resealed ballot boxes, the commission said, were required by law to be retained for six months. And the boxes weren't “hidden”, they were stored in an official IEC warehouse.

The IEC said:

False claims of election rigging are on the rise around the world, from Nigeria and Brazil to Slovakia and the United States. These claims undermine democracy and people’s trust in their governments.

There is no evidence that the video shows “hidden” boxes full of “uncounted” votes from South Africa’s 2024 elections.

Published by Africa Check