IEC 'not competent' to deal with ANC's Life Esidimeni billboard complaint

Commission says judiciary must adjudicate such disputes

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has "disposed" of the ANC’s complaint against the DA’s Life Esidimeni election campaign billboard.

Its chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, told journalists during a media briefing on Thursday that the commission had considered a report on the matter, but that it has no competence to deal with an issue relating to the interpretation of the law.

The ANC’s complaint came amid a public outcry from families who had lost their loved ones in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, in which at least 144 psychiatric patients died after being transferred from the facility to several unlicensed NGOs.

The DA’s billboard, under the slogan "The ANC is killing us", contained the names of Life Esidimeni victims, along with those who died during the 2012 Marikana massacre and Michael Komape, a child who died after falling inside a pit latrine.

The billboard, which was revealed in January, has since been defaced.

But Mamabolo said the Constitutional Court set a precedent during the 2014 elections with the DA’s SMS battle, in which the court found the DA was well within its rights when the party sent out messages stating "the Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246m home. Vote DA on 7 May to beat corruption".

"The IEC must adjudicate disputes of an administrative nature that arise from the preparation for the elections.

"Issues that relate to the interpretation of law against a certain set of facts must be left to the judiciary to deal with," Mamabolo said, referring to what the Constitutional Court had said.

Karima Brown vs Julius Malema Mamabolo said the IEC was looking into a more recent case, which concerns a complaint radio and television host Karima Brown filed against EFF leader Julius Malema after he posted her contact details on Twitter, resulting in a series of threats being sent to her.

"Our attorney dealing with the investigation has made contact with the EFF.

Principles of natural justice demand that we give the person against whom an allegation is made an opportunity to hear his side of the story.

The EFF has requested more time to consider their response," said Mamabolo.

He said the commission would analyse the matter once the report is completed.

While the EFF has complained about posters being removed and the UDM has complained about the ANC blocking its members from campaigning in certain areas in the Eastern Cape, none has lodged a complaint with the IEC’s office.

But Mamabolo said the DA has laid a number of complaints, including one against the ANC’s Ebrahim Rasool accusing him of making false claims while campaigning.

Good party, led by former Cape Town mayor and former DA member Patricia de Lille, has laid complaints against the DA, also accusing it of making false claims.

Mamabolo said the commission did not mete out sanctions but instead made referrals to the electoral court for adjudication, and for the ordering of sanctions against parties or candidates.