Janet Love a shoo-in at IEC, but 2024 a testing ground for the commission
With 283 votes for and none against, Janet Love is the recommended candidate for presidential appointment to the Electoral Commission of South Africa. While the person got the nod, not so much the commission, whose failings the EFF cited as a reason for its abstention.
It had to go to a vote despite agreement on both sides of the House that former anti-apartheid Struggle activist, one-time MP and long-standing public servant Janet Love was the right candidate for the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) vacancy.
That’s because the Constitution, in Section 193(5), requires the support of a majority of the National Assembly, or at least 201 MPs, before the president can formally make the appointment.
Tuesday’s vote on an IEC candidate – about whom no one had a bad word to say – unfolded very unlike certain other votes on candidates selected through a parliamentary process.
Twice delayed now is the vote on the new Public Protector nominee Kholeka Gcaleka, the acting incumbent backed by the ANC, IFP and perhaps a few one and two-seat parties, but not anyone else. And that means the numbers are shaky to reach the 60% threshold, or 240 votes.
As too many legislators were travelling on oversight visits and involved in public hearings, last week’s National Assembly programming committee was told to delay the public protector vote until after recess in early October.
Previously, ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina cited the “uncomfortability” of the City Hall as a venue to argue for postponing the 11 September vote for a new public protector, initially scheduled to follow the vote on impeaching Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
As it turned out, only five of the 14 IFP MPs were present at the time, given preparations for IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s funeral – and the constitutionally required 240-vote threshold for Gcaleka would have been missed as the DA, EFF and Freedom Front Plus have indicated they don’t support her.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Committee selects Gcaleka as next Public Protector despite DA, EFF and FF+ objections, but next steps crucial
Such a flop happened in the June 2022 vote when the ANC pushed on with its preferred candidate for Inspector-General of Intelligence, Frank Chikane, who failed to muster the constitutionally required two-thirds majority. The numbers had not gelled from the start, and it remains unclear why the ANC would have pursued this.
It was back to the drawing board, and in September 2022, Imtiaz Fazel got the required threshold parliamentary vote to become South Africa’s next boss of intelligence oversight.
On Tuesday, Love was roundly acknowledged for her anti-apartheid struggle contributions, her longstanding service as MP from 1994 to 1999, as a ministerial adviser and also in the South African Reserve Bank and the SA Human Rights Commission. From 2006 to 2018, she was director at the Legal Resources Centre.
First appointed as a part-time IEC commissioner in April 2016 by then president Jacob Zuma, Love became full-time elections commissioner in April 2018. Her seven-year term ended in April 2023, but following Tuesday’s National Assembly endorsement, Love returns to the IEC, although it wasn’t immediately clear if it’s to again take up the post of deputy chairperson.
She beat former intelligence inspector-general Setlhomamaru Dintwe and public protector hopeful Advocate Oliver Josie to the post in a list of eight recommendations from a shortlist of 12 interviewed by a panel headed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
While Love was warmly spoken about, the IEC was not.
All political parties that spoke, except the ANC, pointed to the 2024 elections being a landmark poll since 1994 – and how the IEC had in recent years flailed about.
The IEC, in its report to MPs on the 2021 elections, had failed to even mention the issues with the new voter management devices, said DA MP Adrian Roos, adding that South Africa would not allow the “harmonised elections” President Cyril Ramaphosa had endorsed for Zimbabwe.
The Freedom Front Plus cautioned South Africans were losing trust in elections, as IFP MP Magdalena Hlengwa highlighted the testiness of the 2024 elections.
It was the EFF that decided to abstain from the vote because of the IEC’s failure to attract youngsters to register – around 15 million potential voters are not registered – and called for more funding for voter education and registration.
Picking up on a longstanding IFP and other opposition parties’ complaint over South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) members being hired as voting station officers, EFF MP Thapelo Mogale said unemployed youth should be recruited for that job.
“We are opposed to Sadtu members as presiding officers. They have openly declared to support the ruling party. Some of those Sadtu deployees are poorly trained,” Mogale said.
This may not be an immediate concern for the IEC which, with Love’s parliamentary endorsement, now has a full complement of five commissioners.
The Electoral Amendment Act that accommodates independent candidates at provincial and national polls is currently in the Constitutional Court. If that law is deemed unconstitutional – as was the original elections law – it’ll ratchet up the pressure.
The 2024 elections will be a testing ground, not just for the IEC, but for South Africa’s constitutional democracy – and political life. DM