OP­PO­SI­TION TO TACKLE THE IEC

Par­ties want body to take tougher stance on elec­tion prac­tices to pro­tect in­tegrity

CityPress - - Front Page - SE­TUMO STONE AND HLENGIWE NHLA­BATHI news@city­press.co.za

Op­po­si­tion par­ties are set to push hard to com­pel the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) to take a tougher stance on the ANC’s “cam­paign meth­ods” in the up­com­ing mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. Em­bold­ened by the re­cent Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing that the IEC could do more to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the coun­try’s elec­tions, the par­ties are plan­ning to meet when Par­lia­ment re­sumes next month to for­mu­late a plan to take on the elec­tions agency.

They want, among other things, to force the IEC to bar the ANC from us­ing gov­ern­ment food parcels as a cam­paign tool and to end the prac­tice of us­ing mem­bers of the ANC-aligned teach­ers’ union, Sadtu, as elec­tion staff.

The IEC has, over the years, de­vel­oped a prac­tice of rop­ing in teach­ers as as­sis­tants dur­ing elec­tion times be­cause they are gen­er­ally the most lit­er­ate in many com­mu­ni­ties. But op­po­si­tion par­ties have claimed Sadtu mem­bers per­form­ing this role abuse their po­si­tions at vot­ing sta­tions and count­ing cen­tres to favour the ANC.

United Demo­cratic Move­ment leader Bantu Holomisa said the in­ten­tion was to col­lec­tively con­sol­i­date their ac­tion plan af­ter sev­eral let­ters writ­ten to the elec­tions body over the past few months had not re­ceived any pos­i­tive re­sponse.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that the money other par­ties put into elec­tion­eer­ing was un­fairly dwarfed by the ANC’s use of gov­ern­ment re­sources, such as food parcels and sign­ing up peo­ple for so­cial grants, dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns. The ANC has con­sis­tently de­nied this charge.

IFP pres­i­dent Man­go­suthu Buthelezi told City Press on the side­lines of the elec­tions launch that his party had pe­ti­tioned the IEC, seek­ing a com­mit­ment that they would not em­ploy known Sadtu ac­tivists and would mon­i­tor the abuse of state re­sources.

“Those shenani­gans must be stopped. It has long been a fal­lacy that elec­tions have been free and fair,” said Buthelezi.

Last year, Buthelezi wrote to his op­po­si­tion col­leagues urg­ing them to fight as a col­lec­tive.

The IFP has briefed its lawyers on the mat­ter while Holomisa said le­gal opin­ion would be sought if the IEC con­tin­ued to ig­nore their con­cerns.

Buthelezi said he hoped the ANC would heed this week’s warn­ing by Na­tional Trea­sury to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to avoid us­ing state re­sources to favour in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tions dur­ing elec­tion time.

“I hope that will break the con­science of the rul­ing party,” he said.

Holomisa, who was cen­tral in the re­moval of for­mer IEC chair­per­son Pansy Tlakula, said the agency’s fail­ure to give firm com­mit­ments on key con­cerns was in­dica­tive of its cap­ture by the ANC.

“The IEC is not show­ing any will­ing­ness to com­mit. When we all re­turn to Par­lia­ment, we will def­i­nitely be look­ing into that. It’s an is­sue we want to re­solve once and for all,” he said.

“We are deal­ing with ANC sym­pa­this­ers. They are ANC em­ploy­ees and will never raise a hand against the ANC ... What we need is a col­lec­tive ap­proach to the IEC and to send a strong mes­sage that we will find it dif­fi­cult to par­tic­i­pate if they still use teach­ers.”

IEC chair­per­son Glen Mashinini, a for­mer ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, said yes­ter­day the com­mis­sion had long-es­tab­lished chan­nels to ad­dress mat­ters raised by any po­lit­i­cal par­ties or can­di­dates.

“We con­sider the po­lit­i­cal par­ties our clients and, as such, it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to be en­gag­ing with them via the me­dia,” he said.

Last month, Sadtu’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee said the union would legally chal­lenge “dis­crim­i­na­tion [against] teach­ers based on union af­fil­i­a­tion” and said the union’s mem­bers had as much right as any other cit­i­zen to be ap­pointed by the IEC. It said teach­ers from other unions were also em­ployed as elec­tion of­fi­cers, but “only Sadtu mem­bers are tar­geted”.

The IEC has pre­vi­ously dis­missed de­mands to pro­hibit the use of state re­sources to cam­paign or use Sad­tu­aligned staff, say­ing its cred­i­bil­ity and im­par­tial­ity as an elec­tions agency were be­yond re­proach.

How­ever, last year’s damn­ing Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment on the elec­tion agency’s han­dling of 2013 by­elec­tions in Tlokwe has put the IEC on the back foot.

The judg­ment seemed to widen the test of the cred­i­bil­ity of elec­tions, which the IEC pre­vi­ously lim­ited to the ma­te­ri­al­ity of any ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dis­cov­ered – that is, whether or not they changed the out­come of an elec­tion.

The re­newed pres­sure from op­po­si­tion par­ties is most likely caus­ing headaches for Mashinini, who is yet to earn the trust of op­po­si­tion par­ties.

Holomisa said he was un­happy that Mashinini had post­poned the meet­ings sched­uled with him.

“I don’t know how many times he has can­celled meet­ings to come and see us. I re­ally don’t know why. Maybe we are not im­por­tant stake­hold­ers.”

Mashinini said meet­ings with stake­hold­ers were on­go­ing, “sub­ject to mu­tu­ally agreed sched­ules”.

PHOTO: FE­LIX DLANGA­MANDLA

COM­MON CAUSE The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi shares a mo­ment with IFP pres­i­dent Man­go­suthu Buthelezi at the launch of the 2016 IEC elec­toral cam­paign at Gal­lagher Es­tate in Midrand. Op­po­si­tion par­ties are plan­ning to for­mu­late a plan to take on the elec­tions agency

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