Electoral Court ruling has serious implications - James Selfe

DA CFE says IEC must move from being a passive observer of elections, to robustly ensuring they are free and fair

By-election postponement: IEC must ensure free and fair elections both in Tlokwe and LGE2016

24 February 2016

The DA notes the ruling by the Electoral Court postponing the controversial by-elections that were scheduled to be held today in wards 1, 4, 11, 13, 18 and 20 in the Tlokwe Municipality for a period of six weeks. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has subsequently decided to postpone all by-elections. 

Critical to South Africa’s democracy is the ability of the IEC to hold regular free and fair elections and to this end it is incumbent upon the IEC to give effect to the Electoral Court’s ruling or approach the Constitutional Court for direction and legal clarity on how this can be resolved in time for an election constitutionally mandated to take place by no later than August 2016.

If the IEC fails to do so on its own the DA will seek a declaratory order from the Constitutional Court to get legal certainty on the IEC’s readiness to hold free and fair elections and whether or not this will require any further delays to the up-coming 2016 Local Government Elections (LGE2016).

This comes after the Electoral Court made a determination that the IEC request the MEC for Local Government in the North West to postpone the by-elections until all candidates in the Tlokwe Municipal by-elections are provided with “a copy or segment of the voters’ roll to be used in their respective wards in the municipal by-elections, including the addresses of all voters, where these addresses are available”.

Earlier the Constitutional Court gave a landmark ruling regarding the integrity of the voters roll. The integrity of the voters roll is of utmost importance in a constitutional democracy governed by the Rule of Law. Free and fair elections are bedrock of any democracy. The IEC, as a Chapter 9 institution, must be beyond reproach if we are to maintain the legitimacy of our elections. 

It is therefore crucial that we obtain legal clarity about what exactly what the judgement of the Electoral Court means. This judgement has far reaching implications for democracy in our country and as the DA we are considering all our options, we are taking legal advice on the matter and looking at all options available to us.

It is deeply unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation that can only be laid at the feet of the ANC who have persistently exploited loopholes in the electoral system to win votes which requires special attention of its own. We will therefore be asking the IEC to deal specifically with instances of fraudulent electoral conduct.

It is equally critical that the IEC moves from being a passive observer of elections to becoming a robust Chapter Nine institution that can guarantee a free and fair election. In Tlokwe there was overwhelming evidence of bussing in voters, and of the- now very familiar- abuse of state resources to win votes. The DA has provided the IEC with concrete proposals to counteract fraudulent electoral practices and now is the time to enact those proposals.

Looking forward, it is critical for South Africa’s democracy that Mashinini have the capacity to manage a multi-million rand organisation, with hundreds of thousands of electoral staff, over twenty-thousand voting locations, and complicated processes central to our democracy.

Statement issued by James Selfe MP, Chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive, 24 February 2016