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
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’.”
Xolile David Kham