Much-admired IEC cannot afford the slightest tarnishing
Dodgy elections are a dime a dozen in Africa and elsewhere, but not in South Africa. Our electoral commission is universally respected as an impartial broker that can be relied on to deliver reliable and accurate poll results, even in politically fraught circumstances.
More crucially, the IEC's steadfast work in piloting our young democracy through four general elections has won the trust of millions of ordinary South Africans, as well as of all political parties.
But in recent months some of the sheen has been removed from this excellent institution.
There was the damaging report by public protector Thuli Madonsela on the role of the widely respected IEC chairman, Pansy Tlakula, in the procurement of the lease on the commission's new offices in Centurion, near Pretoria. Madonsela found that tender processes had been flouted and that Tlakula had failed to declare a business relationship with the head of the company that won the contract to lease the building to the IEC.
The commission is made up of dedicated people and it is unfair to judge it on the basis of one incident. But Tlakula's refusal to step aside while parliament weighed up the public protector's report - and her criticism of Madonsela - did the IEC no favours.
Then, earlier this week, the Electoral Court ruled in favour of six independent candidates in the Tlokwe municipality in North West, preventing the IEC from holding six of nine scheduled by-elections. The IEC had disqualified the independents' nominations.
One IEC official, who is alleged by rebel independent candidates to be an ally of the ANC, was placed on ''precautionary suspension'' in connection with alleged irregularities.
The IEC's processes were also called into question during a by-election in Abaqulusi, KwaZulu-Natal, earlier this year amid claims of voter registration fraud.
Elections are becoming contested with increasing vigour. It is vital that the IEC restores its bullet-proof reputation.