Uniprint produces 84 million ballot papers for Tanzanian elections

The ballot papers printed by Uniprint for the Tanzanian elections in 2015The South African printing and logistical giant, Uniprint, played a key role in ensuring that the recent Tanzanian elections were declared free and fair.

The R100 million tender for this massive operation was awarded to the Durban-based Uniprint after a lengthy process involving bids from print service providers worldwide. The tender involved printing the election stationery for three simultaneous elections.

The Tanzanian elections tender included:

  1. Presidential elections, which required a single ballot paper
  2. Parliamentary elections, which involved 264 different ballot papers
  3. Local ward elections, which required 3 876 different ballot papers
  4. All results sheets, compromising nine different kinds of multi-part booklets
  5. Sample ballot papers for staff training and for candidates campaigning.
  6. Tactile ballot folders for visually impaired voters, designed for each type of ballot paper

Tight timelines

The total number of ballot papers required was approximately 84 million. These were only printed once the candidates were finalised. Time given to complete the job by the Tanzanian government was a mere six weeks, which is tight by any standards. The job was eventually completed in four weeks, as there were delays in receiving candidate data and photographs from the point of origin. The Uniprint staff made multiple trips to Tanzania to ensure that all of the data arrived timeously.

The pre-press and printing process

Each ballot paper proof had to be created by the company using data supplied in the form of photographs, party logos and candidate names. Deep etching of each photograph and the ballot book layout in Swahili was undertaken locally. The local elections required the preparation of 18 000 photographs for candidates contesting the 3 876 seats.

The presidential, parliamentary and local ballot papers were printed lithographically on four continuous web presses. The entire project consumed in excess of 700 tonnes of security grade paper.

Logistics

Tanzania is divided into six election zones, which are served by 70 000 polling stations. Ballot papers for each region had to be packaged and kitted correctly according to zone and candidates standing. Every ballot book was barcoded and allocated to a specific election kit utilising specialised software previously developed by Uniprint.

Fifteen simultaneous lines of computers, printers, scanners and staff were established to ensure that the right ballot book went into the right box, and onto the right pallet.

Transport

The tender was awarded on the basis that Uniprint would also handle the transport and delivery to Dar es Salaam. This included all paper work, customs clearance and road transport to the National Electoral Warehouses. Time constraints did not allow for delivery by sea, which left airfreight as the only option. As there are no direct cargo flights from Durban to Tanzania, the pallets had to be transported over a period of two weeks from Durban to the OR Tambo Airport using 42 Superlink Tautliners. As Durban does not have this amount of spare Tautliners available in its local economy, the trucks had to work in shifts.

Seven Boeing 777 plus 2 X AN26 charter cargo planes were chartered from various airlines to carry the enormous load. Each plane had to be specially palletised. Six flights went smoothly but the seventh was cancelled three days prior to the election due to a technical fault. Another plane arrived just in time to ensure that the material reached Tanzania prior to the election date.

Valuable learnings

Uniprint Group CEO Bharat Mehta, who was in charge of the project, comments: ‘The commitment from employees at all levels was nothing short of miraculous. Despite the fact that blood pressure levels were pretty high throughout the project, there were major learnings in terms of organisation and kitting. These will be used to increase efficiency levels in future projects and to improve performance across the board.’

‘At the end of the project, there were zero complaints and plenty of congratulations from the Tanzanian authorities as all printed matter was delivered on time and in full.’

The project attests to South African expertise, commitment and resourcefulness reaching into Africa and enabling free and fair elections.


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