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2024 ELECTIONS

IEC recount, please – multiple political parties call for action on SA vote-counting oddities

IEC recount, please – multiple political parties call for action on SA vote-counting oddities
ANC delegate at the IEC Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 31 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

After every election, political parties that have underperformed cry foul against the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC). This time around, even over-performers such as the MK party have joined the multiple parties asking for action on voting irregularities.

The IEC has not ruled out the possibility of vote recounts in certain districts as political parties pile on with complaints about the counting and capturing of results.

A petition circulating around the National Results Operation Centre (ROC) on Friday night reflected the concerns of a wide range of parties —  from minnows which took home only a few thousand votes, to the MK party, which had surpassed 2 million votes at the time of writing.

The letter called for an urgent extension to the IEC deadline of 9pm for objections on Friday night, writing: “We hereby submit that numerous inconsistencies have been raised at various PLC [party liaison committee] meetings during the course of the election, which have not been responded to.”

Signatories included Build One South Africa (Bosa) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), alongside the MK party.

Simultaneously, Western Cape politicians were petitioning the IEC, with 17 political parties signing a letter calling for an extension to the period in which objections could be lodged.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Appeal for calm as Electoral Commission extends objections deadline, tries to diffuse counting debacle

Independent candidate Zackie Achmat initially signed the letter, but subsequently withdrew his name, out of concern that “anti-democratic forces aim to discredit a credible result provincially and nationally”.

On Saturday afternoon, the IEC announced that it would indeed extend the objection period until 6pm.

Hundreds of objections lodged

The IEC did not respond to Daily Maverick’s request for clarity on Saturday about exactly how many objections have been lodged to the counting and capturing process.

DA party agents on the floor of the results centre told Daily Maverick that they had been informed at the meeting of the party liaison committee — the body which allows politicians to raise issues with the IEC during elections — that 74 objections had been registered with the IEC before the initial 9pm Friday deadline, and 120 further objections after the fact.

One of the objections raised by the DA in Johannesburg related to a voting station at Melpark Primary School in Melville, where the results recorded a landslide victory on the national ballot for Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) at 55,23% (913 votes), leagues ahead of closest rivals the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) at 155 votes.

The DA has lodged an objection saying: “Vote numbers on the IEC website for the national ballot do not match the actual votes. This is across all the party numbers.”

The UDM has lodged objections too. Secretary general Yongama Zegibe told Daily Maverick on Saturday that party activists had picked up a problem in Nelson Mandela Bay, where the tallies for the national and regional ballots were allegedly switched.

In the Theewaterskloof district of the Western Cape, EFF party activists claimed the result tally robbed them of 100 votes. Cellphone pictures taken by party representatives appeared to show an initial count of 156 votes for the EFF, but with the “1” subsequently scratched out.

Another type of issue raised by multiple parties related to the alleged non-recording of votes.

becs-recount INSET

A scan of a document showing the total votes for different parties at the Theewaterskloof voting station in the Western Cape. The EFF has alleged that the document on the IEC system shows only 56 votes for the party when there should be 156. (Photo: Tamsin Metelerkamp)

Sworn affidavits

Several parties have submitted sworn affidavits from voters stating that they voted for a particular party at the ballot box, but subsequently found 0 (zero) votes recorded for that party in the IEC results.

Daily Maverick has seen one such affidavit from an individual who swears he voted for Rise Mzansi at a polling station in Observatory, Cape Town, but that party ended up racking up zero votes on the IEC system.

Al Jama-ah has submitted a similar objection, recording its “great concern” over a voter at Summer Greens Community Centre in Cape Town who says they voted for the party on all three ballots, but subsequently found their vote unrecorded.

Al Jama-ah’s Shameemah Salie told Daily Maverick on Saturday: “Our candidates who voted in certain areas — their ballots are not reflecting on the system as having voted.”

Ace Magashule made the same kinds of claims regarding his party, the African Congress for Transformation (ACT).

Magashule told Daily Maverick: “In Fourways, where my son and our staff voted, the results are zero. There were six of them. These results were rigged too much.”

Sour grapes or legitimate concerns?

It should be noted that these sorts of complaints follow every election without fail.

Questions will be raised about whether some of these objections simply reflect bitter disappointment and denial about the election results.

As Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee pointed out on our live blog, some of those complaining could not improve on their results significantly even if the counting was wrong by an implausible order of magnitude.

Ace Magashule’s ACT party is one such example, given that it has brought in fewer than 20,000 votes nationally.

Another is the African Restoration Alliance (ARA), whose supporters protested outside the Western Cape results centre on Saturday morning in favour of a full recount. But the party is hovering around the 12,000 vote mark nationally.

Not every party protesting is an electoral no-hoper, however.

The FF+ has called for a full recount of the Western Cape on the basis of irregularities it says it has collected.

“There were too many problems,” Pieter Groenewald told Daily Maverick on Saturday. He cited one example where the party was recorded as receiving 300 votes on the national ballot, 300 votes on the regional ballot and zero votes on the provincial ballot.

“Logically, there’s something wrong,” said Groenewald.

Results scepticism

Among those expressing scepticism about the results was, counter-intuitively, the MK party — despite Jacob Zuma’s outfit looking set to end up as the third-largest party nationally, with vote numbers unprecedented for any new party in democratic South Africa.

The party is suspicious about the period on Friday morning when the IEC’s results board crashed, calling for a full investigation on the basis that it may have cost the MK party further votes.

IEC elections manager Granville Abrahams told eNCA that a “whole team of legal advisors” was going through the objections for consideration by IEC commissioners.

He did not rule out recounts in certain areas, saying: “Anything is possible.”

But, as Abrahams reminded the public: “Objections are part of the process, so there’s absolutely nothing unusual about that.” DM

Additional reporting by Velani Ludidi, Richard Stupart, Tamsin Meterlekamp, Sune Payne and Victoria O’Regan.

Gallery

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