Tlokwe a tri­umph for the lit­tle guy

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court’s find­ings of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in 2013 by-elec­tions came on the back of hard work by a group of in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

Tlokwe can­di­date coun­cil­lors, whose nearly three-year quest for jus­tice against the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) ended vic­to­ri­ously at the Con­sti­tu­tional Court this week, say staff within the in­sti­tu­tion it­self handed them the smok­ing gun. They have warned that the case will change the game for com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide who have been vic­tims of vote-rig­ging.

Speak­ing to City Press this week at a ho­tel in Potchef­stroom, first ap­pli­cant in the mat­ter and in­de­pen­dent can­di­date Xo­lile David Kham said the case had set a prece­dent for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties coun­try­wide.

On Mon­day, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled that the 2013 by-elec­tions were not free and fair in seven wards of Tlokwe mu­nic­i­pal­ity, and should be set aside.

Kham – along with seven other ap­pli­cants and op­po­si­tion par­ties – have been em­broiled in a bit­ter bat­tle since 2013 when their sus­pi­cions that the elec­tions had been ir­reg­u­lar were con­firmed by an IEC of­fi­cial who was in­volved in the process.

Jo­hannes John­son, who con­tested Ward 13, said that he had lost all con­fi­dence in the IEC.

“We need to have an in­de­pen­dent body that comes in from per­haps out­side the coun­try even [just] to ob­serve elec­tions. The ties in the IEC are too close to the ANC. You find IEC of­fi­cials pre­sid­ing over elec­tions dur­ing the day, only to find that by night they are ANC mem­bers.”

Kham took City Press through the path they fol­lowed that led to Mon­day’s win.

“It was the day af­ter the elec­tions that IEC of­fi­cials ac­tu­ally ap­proached us and said we were right to think some­thing was ir­reg­u­lar and we should pur­sue the mat­ter. They were very scared, as you can imag­ine, but their com­ing for­ward gave us the con­fi­dence to go ahead with the case.”

The group of in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, work­ing with lawyers, made a de­ci­sion to chal­lenge the IEC.

“We ap­plied for ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion through the Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act, and they sent us boxes and boxes of doc­u­ments. I think they thought it would dis­cour­age us, but we or­gan­ised our­selves and got stuck into read­ing those pages.

“We saw that peo­ple’s names were on the doc­u­ments, but no res­i­den­tial ad­dresses were given. Where there were ad­dresses, we went to those ar­eas and started speak­ing to neigh­bours and ask­ing if they knew cer­tain peo­ple who, ac­cord­ing to those doc­u­ments, lived there, but they did not know them.”

A DA North West pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber, Hans JurieMool­man, said he got the sense that the whis­tle-blow­ers felt sorry for the in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates who had been wronged.

“I think the IEC counts on the fact that your av­er­age cit­i­zen is not able to bear the fi­nan­cial bur­den of tak­ing them on legally. A high-pro­file case like this at the Con­sti­tu­tional Court would prob­a­bly cost some­where in the re­gion of be­tween R1.2 mil­lion and R1.5 mil­lion.

“We were for­tu­nate enough to have the ex­per­tise re­quired to take this case as far as we did.”

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court has ruled that the elec­tions must take place again within the next 90 days. Kham said he would start a con­sul­ta­tion process with com­mu­nity mem­bers on what should hap­pen next. John­son told City Press on Thurs­day af­ter­noon that he had con­sulted his le­gal team and could con­firm that he would be con­test­ing again.

The IEC has wel­comed the Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing for pro­vid­ing clar­ity.

“The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has tra­di­tion­ally ac­cepted the ad­dress de­tails as pro­vided by vot­ers, with­out re­quir­ing proof of res­i­dence,” it said in a state­ment. “The Com­mis­sion wel­comes the clar­ity which the Con­sti­tu­tional Court has pro­vided in the rul­ing that the elec­toral com­mis­sion ‘is obliged to ob­tain suf­fi­cient par­tic­u­lar­ity of the voter’s ad­dress to en­able it to en­sure the voter is at the time of reg­is­tra­tion or­di­nar­ily res­i­dent in that vot­ing dis­trict’.”

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

Xo­lile David Kham

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