Parties petition IEC over ‘unjust’ elections timetable

27 February 2024 - 12:27
By Sisanda Mbolekwa
South Africans will head to the polls on May 29. File image.
Image: Antonio Muchave South Africans will head to the polls on May 29. File image.

Political parties have written to Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) CEO Sy Mamabolo requesting an urgent meeting to discuss their disgruntlement with the elections timetable, which they say is “unjust”.

The African Congress for Transformation, African Transformation Movement, African People's Convention, Azanian People’s Organisation, Build One South Africa, Land Party, uMkhonto weSizwe Party, Rise Mzansi, United African Transformation and UDM are seeking to address issues they believe may affect the integrity and inclusivity of the elections.

“The key issues we want to discuss are the election timetable, challenges around the signature requirements and IDs (Protection of Personal Information Act, or Popia), deadline for candidate lists set for March 8 2024, deadline for registration fees, and voter education,” the parties said in a joint statement.

The parties told the electoral head their apprehension arises from the compressed timetable, starting with the submission of IEC lists, which they argue does not allow for adequate participation and engagement from all stakeholders.

“It falls short of ensuring all necessary processes, including voter education, collection of prospective support lists for new parties and preparation are conducted effectively. As representatives committed to the ideals of free and fair elections, we urge the IEC to reconsider and extend the submission deadline to facilitate a more inclusive and informed electoral process.”

The parties took aim at the challenges faced by new political entrants during registration, citing the hurdle of collecting signatures and identity numbers as presenting a barrier to entry for emerging political entities.

“We believe such requirements not only impede the principles of a multiparty democratic system but also disproportionately affect new and smaller parties. Moreover, these requirements seem to conflict with Popia, as they may infringe upon individuals' rights to privacy.”

The parties urged the electoral commission to review the contested registration processes to ensure they are inclusive, transparent and compliant with legislation.

“As stakeholders committed to the principles of free and fair elections, we are deeply invested in the success of the democratic process in South Africa. Therefore, we submit these concerns with the hope of prompt and meaningful engagement from the IEC.

“We trust our shared commitment to democracy will guide us towards addressing these challenges effectively and ensuring the elections reflect the will of all South Africans.”

ActionSA's Michael Beaumont poured cold water on their concerns, saying it was astonishing political parties claimed to be unaware of the IEC requirements to contest elections which have been known for some time.

“The reality is that most of these parties cannot meet the threshold of signatures to contest an election because they exist on social media and not on the ground in communities across South Africa."

ActionSA, like most of the aggrieved parties, will contest the national and provincial elections for the first time.

“ActionSA welcomes the inevitable reduction of political parties and their removal from long ballot papers if they cannot produce signatures equal to 15% of the required votes for a single seat. The job of fixing South Africa is important and is unlikely to be helped by political parties which cannot handle these most basic requirements to contest an election.”