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IEC's Sy Mamabolo on implications of any election delay, measures in place

13 June 2021 - 09:22 By amanda khoza
A new voter management device will replace the ageing zip zip scanner, with 7,400 of these devices currently being used to train officials. File photo.
A new voter management device will replace the ageing zip zip scanner, with 7,400 of these devices currently being used to train officials. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The Electoral Commission (IEC) will seek counsel from the Constitutional Court for an appropriate legal remedy should former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke recommend a postponement of the October local government elections because of Covid-19.

This was indicated by the CEO of the IEC, Sy Mamabolo, in an interview this week.

“The commission would have to apply its mind to the report and then come to an independent decision about the necessity to approach the Constitutional Court for authorisation to conduct the elections outside of the constitutionally defined timeline,” said Mamabolo.

Moseneke had been appointed to lead an independent panel to assess whether the elections should go ahead as scheduled in October. Mamabolo rejected insinuations from certain political quarters that Moseneke's appointment is a ploy to create a legal excuse not to hold the municipal polls.

Moseneke was appointed by the IEC last month to assess if it was possible to hold free and fair elections under the current lockdown restrictions, which would include consultations with multiple stakeholders such as health authorities, disaster management agencies and political parties. This was in response to calls by several political parties for the elections to be postponed.

While Moseneke proceeds with his work, Mamabolo said the electoral body had contingency plans in place should a postponement be recommended.

“From a technical perspective, we will be able to deliver an election consecrated in the constitution. We will have voting stations and logistics ready and we will train our staff,” he said.

Mamabolo said there was no basis to suggest anything sinister behind their decision to enlist Moseneke's expertise, who co-managed the country's first democratic elections in 1994 as IEC deputy chairperson.

“So, there is no hidden hand, so to speak. This is an objective and dispassionate process for the benefit of electoral democracy.”

Mamabolo said should there be a need to extend the soon to expire five-year term of current municipal councils, the period would not be longer than a year.

“Because it’s an extraordinary remedy, it has to be for as short a period as is reasonably possible, so you cannot be talking about eight months, one year or two years. Maybe two or three months but not something in the order or years or double digit months because you are inevitably extending the term of office of a government whose term has come to an end and that is unconstitutional.”

The IEC, said Mamabolo, was also in talks with the department of health to prioritise the vaccination of IEC officials, particularly those that will be deployed to voting stations.

“There is a liaison that has been established between ourselves and the health department which is looking at the issue but it has not been resolved at the moment, but such a request has been made. We are also procuring PPE, we have run the necessary tenders and we are in the process of appointing providers to supply PPE for the registration weekend.”

Mamabolo also said the IEC had procured a new voter management device to replace the ageing zip zip scanners that have been used in the past 15 years, with 7,400 of these devices currently being used to train officials.

“These devices will allow for the instant electronic capture of the voters’ details, including addresses, and to check whether the voter is registered in the correct ward using GPS technology. This device will also allow us to instantaneously check whether a person is enlisted on the national population register.”

On voting day, the new devices will provide access to the real-time voters’ roll, allowing election officials to detect if a person had misrepresented themselves in a voting station, thus eliminating double voting.

He said safety protocols form an integral part of preparations and delivery of the electoral process.

“These measures have been developed in line with global and local health protocols as well as drawing on the experience of other countries around the world and the African continent which have successfully conducted the elections during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

These measures have been tested in more than 150 by-elections since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

“The protocols are holding well and turnout has not been significantly affected by the pandemic. The turnout is about 32%.”