Congolese opposition calls for withdrawal of ANC’s Janet Love from ‘fraudulent’ DRC voter registration audit
Four Congolese opposition candidates have called for the withdrawal of Janet Love, former vice-chairperson of the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), from the audit of this year’s voter registration in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), saying she ‘has helped legitimise the fraudulent fabrication of an electoral register’.
Janet Love insists the DRC voter registration she helped audit was “transparent and credible”.
Martin Fayulu, head of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party (Ecide) – who most outside observers believe won the 2018 elections, as well as Moïse Katumbi, head of Ensemble pour le Changement; Matata Ponyo, head of Leadership et Gouvernance pour le développement (LGD); and Delly Sesanga Hipungu, head of Envol; all signed a letter to ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula, calling on the ANC to pull Love, a member of the ANC, out of the DRC audit.
They said they were “dismayed by Ms Love’s endorsement of the electoral process in the DRC” and noted that civil society, the Catholic and Protestant churches, the “entire political class” and all the people of DRC except the government, had rejected the just-completed voter registration as a “masquerade only benefitting those in power”.
In the letter, copied to the Presidency and the Speaker of the National Assembly, the candidates complained that the DRC political opposition and civil society had been completely excluded from the voter registration process, preventing them from verifying if it was conducted properly and fairly.
Fayulu also told Daily Maverick the opposition suspected that the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) had inflated voter numbers in President Félix Tshisekedi’s strongholds and suppressed them in opposition strongholds.
The opposition had no way of knowing if some voter registration machines might even have been delivered to private homes where fictitious voters could have been registered, Fayulu said.
The registration machines check the identities, including biometric data, of people registering to vote.
Alleged ‘collusion’ involving Love
Fayulu said he believed that Love, who retired from the IEC in April, had been chosen for the audit in what he called “collusion” with Ceni president Denis Kadima, who he said knew her from South Africa where he once headed the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.
Fayulu regards Kadima as totally partisan, noting that he comes from the same UDPS party, the same village and the same tribe as Tshisekedi. He and the other three presidential candidates said Ceni should have commissioned a “reputable international firm” of auditors to audit the voter registration instead.
Vote audit requirements ‘not met’
They said the requirements for a proper audit had not been met. These included ensuring that Ceni provided a detailed explanation to all stakeholders of how it had compiled and verified the voters’ roll; disclosed the number of electoral kits ordered and specified, with supporting maps, the number of kits placed and available in the different registration centres; published operational area reports after the closing of registration; and published provisional lists – in each registration centre and on the official Ceni website – of voters registered, by registration centre, constituency and province.
The candidates told Fikile Mbalula it was impossible for anyone to have audited the registration of 47 million voters in a country of 2.345 million square kilometres in five days, as he said Love and the other auditors had done (she pointed out it was actually six days).
The candidates noted that the International Organisation of the Francophonie, which had audited the more credible 2018 voter registration, had refused to audit the 2023 voter registration partly because it considered the task impossible in five days.
“By seeming to align herself with Mr Kadima, and thereby aiding in his deceit, Ms Janet Love is not only tarnishing her image, but also that of the respected South African electoral commission and your country’s democratic reputation,” the letter said.
“A reliable voters’ register is the first step to guarantee credible elections that the Congolese need to bring peace and liberty to their country.”
Janet Love rejects accusations
Love rejected the accusations against her, telling Daily Maverick that despite some flaws, identified by the auditors and reported to Ceni, voter registration over the past four months had overall been “transparent and credible and forges a good basis for forthcoming elections”.
She denied that Kadima had personally invited her to join the external audit team. She had only met him about five times in the past when he headed Eisa and when the IEC and Ceni had met:
“I am not a personal associate.”
Love said she had applied for the advertised post, along with some 200 others, and was chosen, together with three Congolese and a Malawian.
The ANC also had nothing to do with her appointment, she said.
ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the ANC had not deployed Love, so would not respond to the call to withdraw her. Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya declined to comment for the same reason.
‘Wide range’ of stakeholders engaged
Love said the audit team had engaged with a wide range of stakeholders reflecting different views and concerns. Fayulu’s organisation, Ecide, was invited but declined.
But the parties of the other three presidential candidates who signed the letter to Mbalula – Moise Katumbi’s Ensemble pour le Changement; Matata Ponyo’s Leadership et Gouvernance pour le développement; and Delly Sesanga Hipungu’s Envol – had all sent representatives to meet the auditors, she said.
Love said the auditors also invited Catholic organisations. They did not attend but the auditors had considered their published observer report on the registration.
Ceni ‘withheld vital information’ about voter distribution
Fayulu said in 2018 Ceni had been open about everything concerning voter registration, including the quantities of materials they had imported and the company they had selected to provide the registration machines. And every week Ceni provided opposition parties and other stakeholders with weekly lists of voters registered in the different areas.
In 2023, he said, Ceni “didn’t disclose nothing”.
Ceni provided only the national total of voters registered, but no breakdown by area. That prevented the opposition from correcting errors in particular provinces. As it had in 2018, for instance, in Sankuru.
Fayulu said as a benchmark, Ceni had simply taken the 2018 voter figures and inflated them all by an average of 22% for 2023. This distorted the picture because many people had fled from the east which was at war, whereas the capital Kinshasa – an opposition stronghold – had experienced a large influx of people, including from the east.
He said the opposition had estimated the number of voters in Kinshasa at 6,974,318. This was 1,555,227 more than Ceni’s estimate of 5,419,091. He added that Ceni had also underestimated voter numbers in other opposition strongholds like Kongo Central and Kwilu, and overestimated voter numbers in Tshisekedi strongholds like the Kasais and Equateur.
He said these Ceni figures were “the first step of organised fraud” in the December ’20 elections.
Ceni announced last week that of the 49,273,109 expected voters, it had registered 47,299,364. Of these, 3,344,183 had been eliminated because of double registrations, minors registering, faulty photographs or other problems. Ceni said this left 43,955,181 valid voters on the roll.
Love said she was unable to comment on the allegations that disproportionately higher numbers of voters had been registered in Tshisekedi’s strongholds and disproportionately lower numbers in opposition strongholds.
“I have not seen any analysis in this regard and am not clear on the basis for this statement. We were told that some opposition parties discouraged their supporters from going to register.”
Love said the audit team had outlined in detail how the voters’ roll data was centralised and verified and how it audited the ICT aspects and ran sample tests. The audit team knew the number of registration kits “and the system was seen to monitor and create a documented trail of the deployment and usage of this equipment”.
Audit team responded to concerns
She said stakeholders had raised several concerns, including an uneven distribution of registration centres; some registration centres were closed or moved; some registration kits did not work; there were too few kits, causing long queues; some electoral staff took money in exchange for enabling individuals to jump queues.
“The audit team obtained responses to all of these issues, confirmed the validity of a number of these concerns and looked at interventions that were taken by Ceni to deal with some of the issues in the short term, and the audit team has made recommendations for further corrective steps.”
There had also been allegations of missing kits and kits in politicians’ cars: “We were promised a video but this was not provided.”
Love said the audit team did not consider the procurement process for the registration machines.
“Our remit, as we understood it, was to ensure that the equipment performed as it was intended and required to do and that the system was protected from any external intrusion or interference. This functionality and security were confirmed.”
The audit team had been told how registration centres had been located (“cartography”) and had reviewed this also in relation to the concerns raised by stakeholders. The auditors highlighted some challenges and made suggestions to Ceni about addressing them.
Love noted also that DRC law required that, every day after registration, the list of those registered should be displayed. The auditors had received several complaints about registration centres where this did not happen at all.
However, she added that others – especially members of the media – had reported that the requirement had been followed quite widely but also that some of these lists had been deliberately removed.
“No stakeholder complained about not having received interim reports, including the representatives of the various opposition parties we met with.”
Asked if the DRC voter registration was up to South African standards, Love said: “I think DRC is moving in the right direction, but coming from a different basis in law and in the practices that are so critical to our process in South Africa.
“Some examples: the composition of the Ceni is based on political party representation … the regularity of elections is not something that experience in the DRC has embedded; the legislative framework, particularly for complaints management, needs to be worked on as it is much weaker. DM