SUNDAY TIMES - Local elections may be pushed back as IEC vets voter addresses
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Sunday Times News By SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA, 2016-01-17

Local elections may be pushed back as IEC vets voter addresses

Voting. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lucky Maibi

The date for the local government elections may be pushed back to August to allow the Independent Electoral Commission enough time to allocate addresses to thousands of voters who do not have addresses.

The IEC has until August 16 to hold the local polls as the constitution dictates that elections must be held within 90 days of the date of the previous elections.

The last local government elections were held in May 2011.

The IEC says its officials are already going house to house in rural areas and informal settlements, allocating addresses to voters to compile an updated voters’ roll containing addresses as per a Constitutional Court order delivered last November, which also nullified the results of the Tlokwe by-elections held in 2013.

IEC deputy chairman Terry Tselane said the verification process was the electoral authority’s biggest challenge as it prepared for what is expected to be one of the most contested elections since the dawn of democracy.

Voters living in areas that do not have formal addresses will have to adopt the nearest landmarks to their homes in order to be captured in the voters’ roll.

“People are going to use the closest landmark ... as their addresses. Whether it’s Terry’s Bottle Store or Terry’s Tavern. The map is looking very interesting right now. People are being very creative. People are saying [to IEC] officials, ‘Here if you want to visit me this is the landmark’.

“The more such addresses we get from villages, we will be laughing, but we will implement the court judgment,” said Tselane.

He said affected voters would be made to sign an “affirmation” form confirming that the information provided is not false. Should they be found to have lied, the agency could file criminal complaints against them.

“We also realise that there are people who may try to influence the outcome of the elections by registering in areas where they are ordinarily not residents. In order to deal with that, we made a decision that we are going to introduce a form, which is almost like an affidavit — we say it’s an affirmation form,” explained Tselane.

These measures were in line with the Constitutional Court judgment, which compelled the IEC to satisfy itself that only people who reside in a particular voting district were allowed to vote there. The court also ordered that the IEC provide political parties with a voters’ roll containing addresses.

The court found that some of the voters in the Tlokwe by-elections lived in areas other than where they voted.

No addresses were provided and the voters’ roll had been given to candidates later than regulations require.

A group of independent candidates, comprising mostly former ANC councillors, led by David Kham, had challenged the results of the by-elections, which were held on September 12 2013 in eight wards.

The vote-rigging had involved people were said to be “ANC volunteers” bringing in individuals to cast votes in wards where they were not eligible to do so.

“The Constitutional Court did not say that we should verify addresses. In fact it is very emphatic on the fact that we have no obligation to verify addresses. The only thing that the Constitutional Court is saying, is that we must find sufficient particulars of an individual in order for us to locate that person in a correct voting district.

“Since we started with the development of the voters’ roll in 1998, we have never had an obligation of supplying the political parties with a voters’ roll that has addresses. It was never done,” said Tselane.

The IEC has a budget of R1.5-billion to the 2016 local government elections. Co-operative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen said this figure might change as more resources could be pumped into the election agency later in the year.

- Additional Reporting by Piet Rampedi