Queries about DA voting setup
The DA’s online voting system has come under scrutiny after a losing candidate for the KwaZulu-Natal leadership raised concerns about an alleged lack of transparency.
The Sunday Times can reveal that Emmanuel Mhlongo, who stood for the position last month, has written to the party seeking clarification on the voting process. Mhlongo lost to Francois Rodgers.
The DA does not use a one-person, onevote system to elect leaders. Instead, delegates rank all candidates for a particular position. The lowest-ranked are eliminated, with their votes distributed among the remaining candidates. Covid-19 put a spanner in the process, with online voting introduced for the first time last year.
Online voting requires that delegates register and use e-mail or SMS links to take part, with one-time passwords used for security.
“There is absolutely no transparency when it comes to online voting,” a source close to Mhlongo said.
Mhlongo is said to have asked the party to demonstrate the transparency of the process to legitimate the new leadership.
“Cell numbers and e-mail addresses used for online voting should be disclosed to candidates, and those who voted and those who did not must be clearly marked,” he said.
A presiding officer at the congress at which Mhlongo stood for office, Werner Horn, said voting was handled in line with party protocols. “I am aware of the questions raised by Mr Mhlongo, but what we as the presiding officers did was to refer him to the office of the chair of the federal council ...” Horn said they were confident the congress and voting took place within “guidelines and protocols of the party”.
Federal council chair Helen Zille did not respond to questions sent by e-mail and follow-up questions about the number of delegates, votes cast, spoilt ballots and how many votes were referred by Horn to Zille for leadership positions.
Mhlongo did not answer questions, though he empha- sised he was not “questioning the integrity of DA internal processes”.
But some party members who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed doubt about the single transferable vote system, which they labelled “undemocratic, as it did not allow for [one person], one vote but proportional representation”.
At the DA’s national congress last year, a motion put forward by KwaZulu-Natal delegates to make the voting system more flexible passed however the Federal Council is yet to decide on the new voting procedure making the STV system the party’s default voting.
DA councillor in eThekwini Bheki Ntuli who proposed the amendment section 2.3.3 of the DA constitution of which deals with internal voting said at the congress: “By amending the constitution in this part, we would be left with a constitution that would allow the federal council more flexibility in determining the type of voting system to be utilised by the party ... We need to move to an age where all internal elections use a type of voting system that truly reflects the will of the voters, both in a multiseat situation and single-seat. In the current form of the constitution, only the proportional form is covered, meaning only multi-seat not single, which should be one candidate, one vote.”
Following the adoption of Ntuli’s motion, section 2.3.3 now states “all elections to office within the party involving the election of more than two people to an office must be by a voting system approved by the Federal Council and that internal elections will be conducted in terms of standards set by the Federal Council.”
Federal council is yet to set the standards.