IEC declares 2016 election season open
Election season is upon us. This week, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) launched the road to the 2016 local government elections, reassuring South Africans that polls would be free and fair.
After getting a bloodied nose from the Constitutional Court, being scandalised by its former head Pansy Tlakula and with some people questioning the independence of chair Glen Mashinini – a former adviser to President Jacob Zuma – the IEC was at pains to stress that the elections would be conducted with the highest integrity.
This is the first time the IEC has had to go to these lengths to assure us of its credibility. It is perhaps a good and a bad thing. It is good because it means everyone will be alert to the slightest shenanigans by officials at voting stations. It is bad because it means a great institution has been daubed with the paint of doubt.
As Mashinini said at this week’s launch, these polls will be a litmus test for the IEC as it seeks to prove that it will continue to deliver credible elections – as it has since its inception two decades ago. What he did not say was that it would be a litmus test for him because he must win over those who believe he was placed there by his former boss to ensure that the ANC rules until the son of Mary and Joseph returns.
Inasmuch as it is the responsibility of the IEC to deliver free and fair elections, it is also the duty of political parties to ensure that the outcome truly represents the will of the people. To this end, the parties must refrain from undemocratic practices like creating no-go areas, resorting to violence and intimidation, buying voters with state resources, and manipulating electoral officials.
But the main responsibility rests with the voters, who must use this opportunity to speak their minds with a simple X.