South Africa

Politics, South Africa

Election violence concerns as IEC finalises candidates

Election violence concerns as IEC finalises candidates

Ward candidate lists for the local government elections have been compiled and finalised, with a record number of parties set to contest the poll. The Independent Electoral Commission on Wednesday said violence is a concern, but it is confident the vote will be free and fair. By GREG NICOLSON.

The violent protests in Tshwane last week and other politically-related unrest is worrying to South Africans wanting to ensure free and fair elections but the IEC is engaging with political parties, civil society, and the security cluster to ensure violence does not further mar the election process, the institution said on Wednesday.

“If there are events and processes that disrupt electoral processes we would be concerned as the Electoral Commission, but we also would expect other parties, particularly political parties, to do their best to make sure that the situation is contained and arrested, and that we are able to have these elections within an environment conducive to free and fair elections,” said IEC Vice Chairperson Terry Tselane. “The violent protests that erupted in Tshwane were of great concern to us as a Commission and we will continue to monitor the situation and have conversations with the political parties concerned to make sure that those kind of issues are dealt with and we don’t have those kind of challenges spinning into our electoral processes.”

In a statement last week the IEC expressed “grave concern” at the apparent politically-motivated murders, assaults, and intimidation in provinces such as Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the North West and said political leaders are ultimately responsible for the conduct of their supporters.

Chief Electoral Officer Mosotho Moepya on Wednesday said the IEC has a responsibility to deal with such issues that should worry South Africans, especially those who want to see free and fair elections. He said the Commission is in constant discussion with political parties and other stakeholders. Moepya said the IEC had met with the Economic Freedom Fighters, which has criticised the IEC for processes in Alexandra in the 2014 general election and warned of interference from the IEC. A meeting last week with the party was “very fruitful and amicable”, said Moepya.

Moepya said there are no “no-go areas” for the IEC and it will seek to engage community leaders if issues arise. “Security in an election is a matter we will follow closely but it’s not a matter we follow on our own. We bring to the attention to the security cluster, the concerns that we have. We assess and have access to their security assessment of the country and we take appropriate steps as may be necessary to deal with those issues and in this respect we don’t have areas where we are concerned this is a ‘no-go area’,” said Moepya.

The IEC was briefing the media on the finalised election candidate lists. A record high of 200 parties and 61,014 candidates will contest the elections. Compared to the 2011 vote, that’s an increase of approximately 65 percent more parties and 12 percent more candidates. Approximately 60 percent of candidates are men and 40 percent are women, the average age being 44 years old. The youngest candidate is an 18-year-old in Ingquza Hill Local Municipality in Eastern Cape, the oldest a 90-year-old in Mbizana, Eastern Cape. There is a total of 4,649 unique ballot papers for the elections and the IEC plans to print 80 million ballot papers to ensure sufficient supply.

“There is no process open for anyone to submit fresh candidates. That process is closed,” said Moepya. But there are two issues that could necessitate amendments to the final number of contending parties and candidates. The IEC received 73 on-time payments without correct reference numbers and those parties and candidates will have to show a link to the payments they made.

“The second issue relates to any court challenges of disqualification by parties or candidates. The Electoral Commission is aware of at least one party which has approached the Electoral Court to overturn its disqualification for non-payment of deposit,” Moepya said. While a dispute with the Pan Africanist was cleared up to allow the party to contend, the IEC chairperson confirmed the National Freedom Party has approached the Electoral Court.

The NFP has blamed its treasurer Xolani Ndlovu for failing to pay the party registration fee, claiming Ndlovu misunderstood the deadline. Its attempt to take part in the 3 August poll will be heard by the Electoral Court on Friday. The IEC has said outstanding issues need to be immediately resolved as it plans to start printing ballot papers on 4 July.

Following the Constitutional Court ruling on Tlokwe, North West, the IEC opened its registration stations in the municipality over the weekend so voters could submit and correct their registration details. It said work continues in the area to rectify problems with the voters’ roll. Independent candidates who brought the matter to court, however, have predicted an “election disaster”, claiming some voters on the weekend gave addresses to vote in wards other than where they reside.

Regarding last week’s violence in Tshwane, the ANC on Wednesday welcomed the arrest of a suspect for the murder of Simon Modige, who was killed when ANC leaders were meeting last Sunday to discuss the party’s mayoral candidate. “We commend the South African Police Services for the speedy action to bring perpetrators to book. Any member of the African National Congress who is proven to have participated in the violent protests in Tshwane and elsewhere will face the full might of our internal disciplinary processes,” said party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa. DM

Photo: Locals carry a Coca-Cola branded refrigerator they looted at a nearby shop during protests in Atteridgeville, a township located to the west of Pretoria, South Africa June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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