Back­bone of democ­racy in SA

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

and de­liver a gen­eral elec­tion. And that is with all the nec­es­sary sys­tems largely in place.

Those who were here in the early days of 1997 and 1998 had no such le­ga­cies or short cuts. What they did have was op­ti­mism and ded­i­ca­tion man­i­fested by their pas­sion for elec­toral democ­racy, a deep-seated de­sire for South Africa and its fledg­ling democ­racy to grow and flour­ish and an un­shak­able com­mit­ment to the val­ues of the new con­sti­tu­tion.

As the com­mis­sion, it is worth re­flect­ing on some of our ac­com­plish­ments over the 20-year jour­ney:

We have de­liv­ered four suc­cess­ful na­tional and pro­vin­cial elec­tions, four suc­cess­ful mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions and about 1 000 suc­cess­ful by-elec­tions.

As part of our good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen­ship we have also as­sisted in hun­dreds of elec­tions for other in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing trade union move­ments and stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cils.

Along the way we have set new records and bench­marks for elec­tions. The vot­ers’ roll has grown nearly 45% from 18.17 mil­lion to 26.33 mil­lion since 1999 and has con­sis­tently been around the 80% regis­tra­tion mark.

The num­ber of vot­ing sta­tions has in­creased from about 14 650 in 1999 to more than 22 600 last year. The num­ber of po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­test­ing elec­tions has risen al­most three­fold from 79 in 2011 to 205 last year. The num­ber of can­di­dates has more than dou­bled from 30 081 in 2000 to more than 63 000 last year.

Voter turnout has re­mained among the best in the world for vol­un­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion at more than 70% in na­tional and pro­vin­cial elec­tions. For mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions it has grown from 48% in 2000 to 58% last year.

Our in­sti­tu­tion and the dis­tin­guished work of our pro­fes­sional elec­tion prac­ti­tion­ers have been recog­nised be­yond our bor­ders through mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic ac­co­lades and awards.

Through our mem­ber­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion at ex­ec­u­tive level on in­ter­na­tional bod­ies we have been priv­i­leged to share our ex­pe­ri­ences and to learn from others.

This has see­nour staff mem­bers pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal sup­port and as­sis­tance to many elec­tions on our con­ti­nent and be­yond, and tak­ing part in and lead­ing ob­server mis­sions.

Some of the sys­tems and pro­cesses that we have put in place to en­sure trans­parency and cred­i­bil­ity re­main as­pi­ra­tional bench­marks for elec­toral man­age­ment bod­ies through­out the world – in­clud­ing our re­sults cen­tres and the party li­ai­son com­mit­tee sys­tem.

The IEC is syn­ony­mous with the birth of a demo­cratic and free South Africa. Over the past 20 years we have earned the faith and trust of South Africans and the world through our hard work, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and un­ques­tion­able in­tegrity.

But we are only as good as our last elec­tion. We have to con­tinue to earn the trust and faith of South Africa in each elec­tion.

This means en­sur­ing we con­stantly strive to meet our ob­jec­tives in­clud­ing:

Meet­ing this man­date re­quires ad­her­ing to the val­ues of our or­gan­i­sa­tion which are im­par­tial­ity, in­tegrity, ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency, par­tic­i­pa­tion, re­spon­sive­ness and re­spect.

It can­not be over-em­pha­sised that our in­tegrity. as in­di­vid­u­als and as an or­gan­i­sa­tion. is the most im­por­tant at­tribute we have. It is not an over­state­ment to say South Africa would not be the coun­try it is to­day were it not for the IEC’s suc­cess­ful achieve­ment of its man­date.

This makes our in­sti­tu­tion a na­tional trea­sure which be­longs to all of us.

We are founded on the con­sti­tu­tion as an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion, sub­ject only to the con­sti­tu­tion and the law, which must be im­par­tial and ex­er­cise its pow­ers and per­form its func­tions with­out fear, favour or prej­u­dice.

The suc­cess of our in­sti­tu­tion has been our will­ing­ness and abil­ity to adapt to our chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

The IEC must con­tinue to strive to rise to even higher stan­dards of ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency, im­par­tial­ity and in­tegrity.

We can take pride that the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has al­ways been an in­sti­tu­tion rich in tal­ent and which boasts a team of world-class, pro­fes­sional and highly ex­pe­ri­enced staff who serve with distinc­tion. We have en­joyed one of the low­est staff turnovers in South Africa, which means we have been able to re­tain our tal­ent, ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence and to at­tract scarce skills.

As we move into the next 20 years, we must em­brace or­gan­i­sa­tional re­newal.

Elec­tion man­age­ment is a col­lab­o­ra­tive process and we should take this op­por­tu­nity to ac­knowl­edge and thank our strate­gic part­ners for the in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tion they have made to the suc­cess of elec­tions and our or­gan­i­sa­tion.

We would like to ex­press our grat­i­tude and ap­pre­ci­a­tion to po­lit­i­cal par­ties; govern­ment de­part­ments and var­i­ous state ser­vices; civil so­ci­ety; non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions; faith-based or­gan­i­sa­tions; aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and foun­da­tions; gen­der, dis­abil­ity, youth and other in­ter­est groups; and, in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Fi­nally, we must thank the vot­ers for putting their faith in us and mak­ing the elec­tions a suc­cess.

The founders of our coun­try and our or­gan­i­sa­tion have left us a great en­dow­ment. They have left us a vi­brant democ­racy, an es­tab­lished in­sti­tu­tion, ef­fi­cient elec­toral pro­cesses and sys­tems, a pool of tal­ented em­ploy­ees and a rep­u­ta­tion for in­tegrity, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ex­cel­lence.

When the next gen­er­a­tion of South Africans meets to com­mem­o­rate 40 years of democ­racy what will they say of the legacy we left them? Let us make sure that they look back with pride and re­spect at us. It’s up to us to ful­fil the vi­sion of those on whose shoul­ders we stand to­day.

Our in­sti­tu­tion is a na­tional trea­sure that be­longs to us all

Glenn Mashinini is the chair­per­son of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of South Africa. This is an edited ver­sion of a speech he was due to present to staff to­day.

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