Opinionista Herman Mashaba 14 July 2016

We need to commit to the code in deed, as well as word

On Saturday, I attended the IEC seminar on free and fair elections and the signing of the electoral Code of Conduct held at the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg. As the DA’s mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, my team and I have run a fair and open campaign. Since I started campaigning on 12 March 2016, I have criss-crossed Johannesburg offering a message of hope for every resident. This how I intend to continue until the finishing line.

When I signed this Code of Conduct, I meant it:

We the undersigned parties hereby undertake to uphold the electoral code of conduct as described in the Local Government Legislation: Municipal Electoral Act 27 of 2000.”

When political leaders sign this Code, they must commit to it not just in word, but also in deed. While on the one hand, Parks Tau signed the code, his administration has spent millions of rand promoting his campaign with billboards and adverts that cast Mr Tau and the ANC in a positive light.

This is an abuse of public money that should be spent on service delivery for the people of Johannesburg. The Code of Conduct clearly states that: “(no person may) abuse a position of power, privilege or influence, including parental, patriarchal, traditional or employment authority to influence the conduct or outcome of an election”.

By spending public money on party-political propaganda, Mr Tau is abusing his position in an attempt to influence the outcome of this election. This is why, last Thursday, the DA laid a complaint with the IEC, and we hope that they will treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

The basis of our complaint was a radio advertisement paid for by the City of Johannesburg claiming that Mr Tau is a great leader. It referred to an award he has been nominated for, and concluded that “clearly the City of Johannesburg is in good hands”. This is an excessive and gratuitous depiction of a City office-bearer, and clearly creates a perception that the advertisement promotes the mayor as an individual.

This comes after the DA revealed earlier this week that Mayor Parks Tau’s administration has spent over R15-million on newspaper adverts in April, May, and July 2016, all to promote the mayor and his administration ahead of the local government elections.

Of this, 65% was spent on promoting city officials, such as the mayor and finance MMC: SOCA (R4.7-million), budget speech (R3.2-million), and a Moody’s rating (R1.1-million).

Other abuses of city funds are enormous billboards carrying pictures of Tau. The latest example is an enormous billboard on the M2 motorway, which has a picture of Tau accompanied by the words, “14,000 small companies supported through SMME hubs”. This billboard cost an estimated R20,000 to produce and an ongoing R40,000 per month to rent.

The irony is that millions of rand that could have been spent on job creation and service delivery have instead been spent on promoting Mr Tau himself.

Mr Tau tries to paint a picture of a prosperous city, using catchphrases such as “Johannesburg’s new economic democracy”. However, the facts speak for themselves. Unemployment has risen from 27% to 31% during his term in office. In fact, there are 180,000 more unemployed people in Johannesburg today than there were in 2011.

I pledge that if I am elected mayor, money such as this will be spent on ensuring that jobs are created and better services are delivered.

Earlier this week a complaint was laid with the public protector, objecting to the spending amounts as an unjustifiable exercise of power under the Public Protector Act.

The abuse of funds also amounts to “abuse [of] a position of power… to influence the conduct or outcome of an election”. It is thus a flagrant violation of paragraph 9(2) of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

In summary, we have called on the IEC to:

  • Instruct Mayor Tau and the ANC to stop contravening the code immediately, specifically by desisting from gratuitous and excessive advertising, using public funds to promote himself and the ANC that he represents;
  • If necessary, to approach the Electoral Court to enforce the code against Mayor Tau and the ANC, as the CEO of the IEC is empowered and in fact duty-bound to do under section 77 of the Municipal Electoral Act.

It is clear that both Mayor Tau and the ANC must be reminded that they are not beyond the law. It falls to the IEC to ensure that the freedom and fairness of the 2016 elections are preserved by holding Mayor Tau and the ANC to the Electoral Code of Conduct. DM

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