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IEC’s job is to deliver free and fair election, not battle Jacob Zuma in court

IEC’s job is to deliver free and fair election, not battle Jacob Zuma in court
Jacob Zuma addresses the All African Alliance Movement members in Soweto on 5 January, 2024. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi/Gallo Images) I A voting sign at the Heidedal Primary School voting station during by-elections in George on 19 July, 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The IEC’s work is to focus with steely determination on the election and its nuts and bolts. Its work is not to get into distracting legal battles with the former president.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is probably smarting from the double loss it suffered in the Electoral Court on 9 April. To recap: the Court has greenlit the candidacy of former president Jacob Zuma and also said the IEC was wrong to limit the places where South Africans who live abroad can vote.

Because the Electoral Court was working to tight deadlines, its two orders came without judgments. The IEC has to finalise candidate lists by today to certify them by Friday, 12 April, and then start printing ballot papers. It also has to notify people living abroad of voting stations.

The written judgments will likely be handed down next week, and the IEC said it awaits them.

If the IEC considers appealing the order on Zuma, I hope it will not. The IEC’s job is to deliver a free and fair election. In 2024, it must also deliver this seventh national election in the most competitive landscape yet.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

Fears that violence and violent rhetoric can harm the stability of the poll are widespread, and anxiety about the institution is high even though it has a sterling regional and global reputation for sturdiness.

Its work is to focus with steely determination on the election and its nuts and bolts. Its work is not to get into distracting legal battles with the former president or even with the DA, which brought the suit against it for limiting where South Africans abroad can vote. The order for the DA will make it mandatory for the IEC to allow South Africans abroad to vote at honorary consul offices, not only at embassies and consular offices.

The IEC should accept that the system in the Constitution has worked: the Electoral Court (created as a judicial appeal body to the IEC’s decisions) has made its findings. Let’s leave it there.

If not, the IEC risks distracting its staff, who operate with a smaller budget than needed, in lengthy and time-consuming court battles that can be left to others to bring if they feel strongly enough.

In addition, it risks making the institution the subject of Zuma’s strategy of using lawfare to fight his battles and prosecute his ambitions.

The MK Party is already gunning for the two women commissioners of the IEC, Janet Love and Judge Dhaya Pillay, in public statements and at rallies. News24 reported that Love came under fire at a post-court rally this week.

Judge Pillay was on the Constitutional Court when Zuma was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for contempt of court; Love reportedly questioned Zuma’s candidacy at a press briefing.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ConCourt finds Jacob Zuma guilty of ‘unprecedented’ contempt, seals sanction with 15-month jail sentence

The former chairperson of the IEC, Terry Tselane, told Daily Maverick reporter Queenin Masuabi that he believed the IEC should not appeal the order. Her full report is here.

We should not turn a blind eye to attacks on women leaders of key institutions, but in this case, the IEC has a higher purpose and national calling. Zuma and the MK party should be allowed to test their support at the poll and not be permitted to turn the IEC into their battering ram. As Stephen Grootes writes here, there may well be important legal issues to ventilate.

Explainer: The Electoral Court has five judges and two non-judge members. The five judges are:

  1. Judge Dumisani Zondi — Chairperson of the Electoral Court and a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals;
  2. Judge Lebogang Modiba — a seasoned judge who has ruled against the EFF in a defamation suit brought by journalist Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki;
  3. Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, who has been a member of the Electoral Court since 2014;
  4. Judge Leicester Rock Adams — a member of the Gauteng High Court; and
  5. Judge Seena Yacoob, a member of the Gauteng High Court.

The two non-judge members are:

  1. Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama-Makhanya — a Professor at Fort Hare and a regular acting judge; and
  2. Professor Moses Phooko of the Faculty of Law at Fort Hare.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • ST ST says:

    I take your point about distractions and use of IEC as a MK tool, as well as letting the voters decide on the MK. I suspected that maybe that’s what relevant authorities in this respect are thinking, perhaps in the spirit of minimising the risk of violence.

    But quite bemused about the due process including candidate vetting, oversight, and decision-makers where questionable candidates pop up the list. Although if 1 in 6 is suspect, it could be quite laborious.

    Why IEC was in a position to say yay or nay or ask for objections, and now an option to appeal if none of these are on their job description. Who then should and why aren’t they? Someone has to

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      If we do not make a stand and face this fear of violence now, with every threat Zuma poses, it will become far worse in the long run, and in many respects. Threats of intimidation must not be tolerated under any circumstances.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    IEC is corrupt and we can be guaranteed about it!

  • Richard Blake says:

    It is the job of the IEC to ensure that the integrity of the election is protected. What we have here is the bending of rules to please Jacob Zuma, and this will leave many people concerned about the IEC’s ability to do it’s job.

  • Dr Know says:

    The laws of nature do not allow the words ‘Jacob Zuma’ and ‘Free and Fair’ to be used in the same sentence, or even in the same country.

  • District Six says:

    The Electoral Court will do the country a disservice if it does not deliver the judgement speedily. Until we all know the judgement, we can’t really comment insightfully. Not that no-information will hinder the unscrupulous and the immoral from abusing the outcome for their own nefarious agendas.
    It must be said, the ANC has created a landscape where everything is a crisis. Without any doubt, the ANC has created much chaos by its dithering. It failed to boot zuma out when he fronted the “MK party”; it failed to reign him in, in any meaningful way; it allowed Fraser to be in the DCS seat; Lamola freed zuma from prison after the ConCourt sent him back; this latest crisis is entirely of their making, and well illustrates the parlous character of this party. The ANC is a disaster.

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      You still see the ANC pussy footing around. Yesterday they said it was “strange” Zuma had not resigned from the ANC. STRANGE!!
      They are trying to “persuade” him to resign.

  • Dov de Jong says:

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The more anti Zuma rhetoric the better for Zuma. Let Zuma and Big Julie battle it out.

  • robby 77 says:

    Exactly, to ensure the election is free and fair. What is fair about having someone convicted of a crime stand as a candidate? It’s not like its against the constitution or anything…oh wait

  • John Stephens says:

    You are quite correct that the IEC has only one job – that of delivering free and fair elections. However, that is such a facile view of its job. It must deliver free and fair elections within the parameters of the law. That is what it is trying to do. It is not taking Zuma to Court. Zuma took the IEC to court for its decision to apply the law. It is a sad day for democracy, which cannot exist without the rule of law, when you denigrate the IEC for applying the law.

  • Cav Vezi says:

    For me it’s strange that the IEC would be even going the court route. I thought their job was to oversee the electoral process and not trying to have certain individuals not participate. I highly doubt that these elections might truly be fair. The IEC is being used to fight battles. Let the MK find out during the elections if it can tople the ruling party.

  • A S says:

    Ferial please read the Constitution and the IEC’s mandate before posting nonsense like this. The Constitution clearly states that the IEC’s tasked with managing elections “in accordance with national legislation” that includes Constitutional provisions for who is eligible to a member of the National Assembly of course this is within their purview and they’re entirely right to question the Electoral Court for failing to provide reasons for their judgement.

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