IEC ordered to file responding papers in ActionSA case by Tuesday

08 October 2021 - 12:56
The Electoral Court has ordered the IEC to file its opposing papers by Tuesday after ActionSA’s bid to have its name on ballot papers for the November 1 elections. File photo.
The Electoral Court has ordered the IEC to file its opposing papers by Tuesday after ActionSA’s bid to have its name on ballot papers for the November 1 elections. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The Electoral Court has ordered the Electoral Commission (IEC) to file its opposing papers by Tuesday after ActionSA’s bid to have its name added to the ballot papers to be used for the November 1 local government elections.      

The court will then await ActionSA’s replying papers by Friday before it proceeds with the matter. It has not set a date on when it would make a decision, or if it this will be done physically.

“The court reserves the right to dispose of the matter on the papers only without hearing oral arguments.”    

The party’s national chairperson, Michael Beaumont, expressed concern over the timelines as it sought a reprieve on an urgent basis. 

“ActionSA respects the directive of the court but expresses regret at these time frames. This matter is disproportionately more urgent than these time frames reflect,” he said.

The case comes after the party realised that its name had been omitted from the ballot papers. It can only be identified by its logo, a predicament 14 other political parties find themselves in. 

Explaining this, the IEC said it was the party’s fault, as it failed to submit an abbreviated name when it first registered as a party.  

“The absence of the abbreviated name of ActionSA on the ward ballots is because, at the point of registering as a party, ActionSA elected not to register an abbreviated name or acronym. ActionSA, in its documents in which it applied for registration as a political party, and which must be publicly lodged in terms of the regulations, responded with a 'Not Applicable' in the space where the political party was required to indicate its abbreviated name,” said IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela.

ActionSA, in its court papers, argues that the decision is irrational and not in line with the constitution. It cites the Electoral Act, which it says does not require a political party to have an abbreviated name.  

It admits not adding an abbreviation on the forms because, it says, its full name was already compliant with the IEC’s eight-character limit on abbreviated party names and thus could always be used in full.

Beaumont made a similar contention, arguing that the forms it was presented with made no mention of what would go onto ballot papers. 

“In section 15 of the Electoral Commission Act, it says 'abbreviated name, if any'. In other words, both these forms and the law envisions a situation where a party might choose not to be abbreviated.

“We understand that to mean that we have chosen an eight-character name, please use ActionSA whenever you represent the name of the organisation. What the IEC is saying is, by arguing that, we waive the right to exist on the ballot paper by name.

“There is nothing in law or form that says this is how a ballot paper is constructed, so that there may be ambiguity we accept — but when it's raised with the IEC immediately, at a time when it's easy to remedy, and the answer is no, where is the voter in that decision?” argued Beaumont.   

The party has since accused the commission of sabotage. Despite this, it will intensify its campaign for the election. 

“There is a concerted effort by the IEC to sabotage our participation in this election. But I want to assure South Africans that we are going to participate and we're not going to participate as a logo, but as ActionSA,” said party leader Herman Mashaba. 

The party wants the IEC’s decision set aside and for the court to compel the commission to destroy the ballot papers and reprint new ones — and that the new papers must reflect ActionSA's name next to its logo, as it claims that its constitutional rights and those of potential voters were being violated by the omission.