Elec­toral com­mis­sion ad­mits 1 040 votes in Tlokwe are sus­pect, but in­sists elec­tion re­sult was not af­fected. Op­po­si­tion par­ties say they are los­ing faith in the process

CityPress - - News - YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD yolandi.groe­newald@city­

The In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) has ad­mit­ted that 1 040 il­le­gal vot­ers made their mark in the con­tro­ver­sial Tlok­we­mu­nic­i­palby-elec­tion­slastyear. But in pa­pers be­fore the Elec­toral Court, the com­mis­sion in­sisted the il­le­gal votes didn’t change the out­come of the elec­tions. The IEC’s ad­mis­sion is con­tained in a re­join­der af­fi­davit filed in June and signed by chief elec­toral of­fi­cer Mosotho Moepya.

It came af­ter City Press re­vealed in Jan­uary that as many as 2 500 ques­tion­able reg­is­tered vot­ers might have par­tic­i­pated in the hotly con­tested by-elec­tions.

The by-elec­tions were called af­ter nine ANC coun­cil­lors were fired by their party for re­fus­ing to sup­port for­mer Tlokwe mayor Mapetla Mapetla.

In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in nine of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s wards asked the court to set aside the re­sults and in­sti­tute an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The ANC won eight of the nine wards. The case, which has dragged on since De­cem­ber, was post­poned again in June and was sup­posed to be heard last month. But it was again post­poned in­def­i­nitely af­ter Moepya’s af­fi­davit re­vealed that some reg­is­tra­tions were il­le­gal.

Late last year, Moepya told the court he had con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the by-elec­tions and found no ev­i­dence of any wrong­do­ing. He said in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates’ vote-rig­ging claims were un­sub­stan­ti­ated.

But af­ter the City Press re­port, in which we in­ter­viewed three vot­ers who voted out­side their wards, IEC staff un­der­took a desk­top in­ves­ti­ga­tion us­ing a spa­tial ad­dress data­base pro­vided by Tlokwe’s for­mer act­ing mu­nic­i­pal man­ager.

A team was then sent to the town to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther.

IEC in­ves­ti­ga­tors an­a­lysed 3 832 peo­ple who had voted in the elec­tion and found that only 2 108 had been cor­rectly reg­is­tered.

In court pa­pers, the IEC ad­mit­ted “1 040 vot­ers ap­plied for reg­is­tra­tion out­side the ward of their res­i­dence”.

A fur­ther “332 did not have suf­fi­cient con­ven­tional ad­dresses pro­vided by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity” and “359 ap­pli­cants were reg­is­tered in other vot­ing dis­tricts”.

De­spite this, Moepya stated in his af­fi­davit the ques­tion­able votes would not have af­fected the elec­tion re­sult, and also that the IEC tal­lied the num­ber of prob­lem­atic vot­ers in each ward and com­pared the num­ber with the win­ning mar­gin.

In each case, the win­ning mar­gin ex­ceeded the num­ber of il­le­gal vot­ers, he said.

In its sub­mis­sion, the IEC said the grow­ing num­ber of in­for­mal set­tle­ments, most no­tably Marikana– where the mu­nic­i­pal­ity pro­vided no ser­vices – made it dif­fi­cult to en­sure that each per­son voted in the cor­rect district.

But in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates re­fused to ac­cept this and ques­tioned the IEC’s num­ber of 1 040 il­le­gal vot­ers – in­sist­ing the num­ber is far higher.

They also ques­tioned the spa­tial ad­dress data­base the IEC used for its re­search, ar­gu­ing the list was pro­vided by the po­lit­i­cally bi­ased mu­nic­i­pal man­ager whom the IEC it­self re­jected as an elec­toral of­fi­cial.

In his an­swer­ing af­fi­davit filed this week, for­mer coun­cil­lor David Kham said it was highly pos­si­ble there were far more il­le­gal vot­ers than those who were found.

This, he said, was be­cause the spa­tial data­base con­tained only the names of peo­ple who were billed by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for ser­vices, and if a house­hold did not pay the coun­cil any money, their names would not fea­ture on the data­base. The names of other mem­bers of their house­hold would also be omit­ted from it.

The Tlokwe vote-rig­ging is­sue has been a dark cloud hang­ing over the IEC, with op­po­si­tion par­ties cit­ing it as one of the rea­sons they are los­ing trust in the coun­try’s elec­toral process.

Two weeks ago, DA leader He­len Zille said the Elec­toral Court’s de­lay in hear­ing and rul­ing on the mat­ter un­der­mined the trust par­ties had in the IEC and the court.

Ben Af­fleck: I don’t pre­sume to tell any­body who to vote for

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