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Mashatile warns political parties against being ‘unjust, deceptive, or hateful’ in run-up to polls

Mashatile warns political parties against being ‘unjust, deceptive, or hateful’ in run-up to polls
Deputy President Paul Mashatile on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Deputy President Paul Mashatile has cautioned political parties against using social media to run campaigns that are unjust, deceptive and hateful as the country heads to what has been dubbed a watershed election in May 2024.

He made the remarks at the launch of principles and guidelines for the use of digital and social media in African elections, held in Illovo, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.  

The adoption of the guidelines signalled a new era for election management bodies (EBMs) in the quest to reap the benefits of digital and social media while also finding ways to mitigate harms that could jeopardise the credibility of electoral processes, according to Mashatile.  

“The principles and guidelines are a comprehensive framework for the EMBs and electoral stakeholders on how best to interface with digital and social media before, during and after elections,” he said.

“Therefore, the development of these principles and guidelines on social media, spearheaded by the Electoral Commission of South Africa on behalf of AAEA [the Association of African Electoral Authorities], is groundbreaking on the African continent.”   

The political environment during elections is often volatile, with social media sometimes used as a tool to spread disinformation, Mashatile said the guidelines ought to be adopted to achieve the following:  

  • To enhance existing continental and regional normative frameworks governing the conduct of elections by specifically incorporating issues of digital and social media in elections;
  • To create awareness among EMBs and other stakeholders on the benefits and threats of digital and social media to the electoral process and integrity; and
  • To foster policy development on digital and social media in elections by EMBs, regional economic communities and member states.

“In the fast-paced digital world of today, we must recognise the important role that social media plays in shaping people’s opinions and establishing the narratives propelled during elections,” Mashatile said.

“As we witness the increasing use of these platforms in political campaigns, it is imperative that we establish clear principles and guidelines to ensure a fair, transparent and inclusive electoral process.”    

The launch adds to the IEC’s Electoral Code of Conduct which aims to promote conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections and that create a climate of tolerance, free political campaigning and open public debate.   

Acts prohibited by the Electoral Act include: Using language which provokes violence; intimidation of candidates or voters; publishing false information about other candidates or parties; plagiarising any other party’s symbols, name or acronyms; and destroying, removing or defacing posters of other parties.  

If a political party or independent candidate breaks the code of conduct, they can be fined up to R200,000, ordered to give up their election deposit, stopped from working in an area, have their votes in an area cancelled or have their party registration cancelled.  

Any person who breaches the code can also be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment.

Daily Maverick has reported that in the build-up to the final registration weekend, former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party made headlines after a religious leader and alleged MK party leader openly threatened the IEC at a rally in KwaZulu-Natal.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

TimesLIVE reported that the pastor, Vader Maluleke, took to the stage and vowed to “shut South Africa down for good” and reject the election results if the IEC did not give Zuma’s new party a two-thirds majority.  

The Patriotic Alliance (PA) also came under fire from the DA for alleged incidents of intimidation during the final voter registration weekend.

The IEC, however, could not charge the MK Party or any other political party for similar offences because President Cyril Ramaphosa had not yet declared an election date.  

Operation Dudula, which is set to contest the elections for the first time, has also come under scrutiny as a result of its conduct.  

Read more in Daily Maverick:  Elections 2024 Explainer: How the IEC will tackle disinformation, errant parties

Daily Maverick reported that since its inception as an organisation in 2012, Operation Dudula has embarked on a crusade to remove foreigners from schools in Diepsloot; unlawfully evict residents from an allegedly illegally occupied building in Jeppe, Johannesburg; harassed workers and patients believed to be foreigners at a hospital in Tshwane; and clashed with police while targeting foreign traders in Hillbrow and Orange Grove.  

Mashatile cautioned against similar incidents which take place in digital spaces. 

“I urge political parties that participate in robust debate on social media to uphold ethical standards and refrain from going too far in being unjust, deceptive or hateful. We can run campaigns on social media without being malicious or degrading of both individuals and organisations. 

“We should, therefore, use these principles and guidelines to emphasise the importance of promoting online integrity, safeguarding against misinformation and disinformation, protecting privacy and data security, and fostering a level playing field for all candidates and political parties.” 

Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the guidelines came at a critical time. 

“As elections management bodies we have to take advantage of the positive aspects of social media and ensure that we embrace them for voter education, we embrace them for engaging with the general voting public,  but also deal with the negative effects. Unfortunately, when you deal with digital and social media there are negative uses which, if not addressed, can impair the credibility of the elections,” he said. 

Adherence to the principles and guidelines would safeguard the values of democracy through free and fair elections and allow voters to make informed choices.  

He added that it was critical to use social media platforms in a constructive manner to inform and disseminate accurate information about elections, as platforms such as X, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and others had become popular, particularly among young people. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jim F. says:

    Hmmm, a dilemma for MSM. To publish or not to publish ANC and EFF manifestoes when you know they are clearly unobtainable drivel? To publish is clearly promoting fake news. The impaired credibility is thus self imposed and has little to do with alternative digital media.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Mashatile talks up being ethical……does. he have any idea what it might mean, particularly with more recent disclosures about he and his family and associates.

  • Karen G says:

    Does this include when the ANC tells voters to not vote for the DA because they will bring back Apartheid? Hypocrite!

  • David C says:

    So….don’t act like the ANC for the past 20 years, in other words.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Mr Mashatile, do you consider the following hateful?

    1. The ANC are the thieves of our liberation
    2. The ANC lies to stay in power
    3. The ANC keeps us in poverty
    4. The ANC keeps us uneducated
    5. The ANC breaks our roads
    6. The ANC steals our money
    7. The ANC makes our water undrinkable
    8. The ANC can’t even give us electricity
    9. The ANC gives out food parcels before elections to fool us

    …because for us it just the truth.

    • Vincent L says:

      …10. The ANC murders children in pit toilets.
      11. The ANC cozies up to dictators that could just as well be aligned to Verwoed.
      12. The ANC see no injustice in the death of Navalny.
      13. The ANC see no injustice with murder of Kashoggi.
      14. The ANC has broken our health system…to the extent that the ANC elites need to find treatment overseas.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Election Management Bodies launch for Association of African Electoral Authorities

    who or what are EMB or AAEA and what have they done to tear down fake elections on the continent?

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Coming from a man who blew half a bar on lunches when he wasn’t giving his family millions from funds earmarked for the poor, any talk of ethical behaviour is laughable! Never mind the Daily Drivel otherwise known as Fikile Mbalula’s lies!

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    “Deputy President Paul Mashatile has cautioned political parties against using social media to run campaigns that are unjust, deceptive and hateful as the country heads to what has been dubbed a watershed election in May 2024.”

    Gold! From the 2IC of the criminal enterprise cosplaying as a government who hired Bell Pottinger to do exactly that in support of their theft of the state. The level of dumb that needs to be plumbed to see these lying thieves as something other than what they are, let alone to vote for them, is hard to fathom.

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