UPDATE (midnight, Friday 10 May 2019)
Two hours and forty-five minutes after the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was clear as mud on whether the planned declaration of the election results would go ahead on Saturday, a request to RSVP confirmed the announcement would indeed happen at 6pm. An audit, now called assurance process, was still underway into claims of double voting. All IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini would say around 9pm was that the commissioners would “discharge our responsibility”. But then at 11.45 came the IEC call “Media are hereby invited to the formal announcement of the 2019 national and provincial election results”.
There was no clarity on Friday night whether the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) would formally declare on Saturday the final results of the elections held on 8 May, as had been initially planned. An audit, now called an “assurance process”, into claims of double voting, was still underway.
All IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini would say on Friday night was that the commissioners would “discharge our responsibility”. The deadline for that, legally speaking, is Wednesday – it all was as clear as mud.
Against the backdrop of persistent allegations, complaints and claims of double voting, further amplified as the indelible ink on voters’ thumbs turned out to be not so indelible, IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo on Thursday announced an independent “urgent audit” of a representative sample of voting stations. The aim was to get assurance and confidence that, even if there had been irregularities, these were not material, and did not affect the overall results.
Some 31 hours later, on Friday night, the “urgent audit” had morphed into an “assurance process” as the IEC confirmed the statistician-general had handed over a list of 1,020 voting stations that “will form the sample for an independent technical assurance process”, according to IEC commissioner Janet Love, who quickly moved on. “The Electoral Commission further welcomes the findings of a number of international and domestic observer missions that have endorsed the elections as free and fair and broadly reflective of the will of the people.”
It was this approach that had representatives of at least two political parties thinking the IEC really just wanted to push through and get the declaration done, regardless. The representative of another political party indicated that perhaps by Sunday the processes would all be completed and the election could be officially declared.
By law, the IEC has seven days to declare an election. The process means that after the officials have concluded the count, and related matters, the election report is handed to the commissioners to consider all data, from results, objections and complaints. The commissioners must determine whether the election stands, and that it can be declared.
Effectively the IEC has until Wednesday to legally declare the election results free and fair. The initial plan had been to do so on Saturday before the 6pm gala dinner at the IEC national results centre.
The Presidency issued a statement saying President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was initially scheduled for a walk-about at the IEC national results centre on Friday, would now be at the centre on Saturday at 6pm – with one qualification:
“While the president is due to undertake this visit at 18h00, his schedule will be informed in part by the IEC’s own schedule.”
However, Daily Maverick was informed the results of the statistician-general’s check would be presented to the political party liaison committee at noon on Saturday.
A DA representative at the IEC national results centre indicated one of the party’s technical minds would attend this briefing, and report back to the party leadership, which ultimately would have to make a decision. The DA is understood not to be the only political party to pursue such a process.
Such an audit has been unprecedented. It comes amid a threat of legal action by several smaller political parties that have claimed irregularities and even corruption, although it’s understood evidence of this was in short supply. IEC commissioner Dhaya Pillay told the briefing the commission lawyers were involved:
“Our lawyers are busy with it and in due course we will communicate. For the time this is sub judice and I hope you will exercise some patience.”
But it was really about the confluence of the audit-turned-assurance process regarding the alleged double votes, the time frames for this process and the formal election declaration. And that remained clear as mud.
Mashinini sidestepped any mention of dates and declarations. The process of the chief electoral officer finalising the election to be presented to the IEC commissioners was still underway. At the time some 97% of the votes were counted.
The commission would move in line with the law “without further waste of time to discharge our responsibility”, Mashinini said, adding: “We don’t intend to hold the country in suspense”.
And so the waiting game goes on. DM