Defend Truth


The DA’s allegations that the Constitutional Court and IEC are captured by the ANC are dangerous and contradictory


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

When the Constitutional Court found Jacob Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison, the court was, in the mind of the DA, the best thing since sliced bread. When it ruled in favour of the DA in a number of cases, it was hailed as a beacon of independence. And yet today there are allegations by the DA that the ruling party has a direct line to the apex court.

Does the DA really want to cast aspersions on both our highest court in the land and our Independent Electoral Commission? What exactly does that say about the very democratic project in which it itself participates? Should we also assume that our Parliament is also illegitimate, or are things in our country democratic only when it suits the DA and when it works for it?

This is a very dangerous trajectory for both Helen Zille and John Steenhuisen. Are you so cynical, so short-sighted, that you are prepared to cast the dye that states that both these fine institutions are compromised? Captured by the ANC, to use your language? In essence, that our democracy is done for. This is from the same people who call themselves parliamentarians — representatives of our people.

Just the other day, when the apex court found former president Jacob Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison, the court was the best thing since sliced bread. When it ruled in favour of the DA in a number of cases over the past few months, it was hailed as a beacon of independence.

And yet today there are allegations of the ruling party having a direct line to the apex court. Then, when the court in effect ruled against the ANC through the IEC ruling, the court was once again great and the ruling was welcomed by the DA. By the way, this is also the court that the DA relies on for its case brought against the IEC for opening up the registration of candidates again. Am I to take this as schizophrenia?

I’m sure you would all agree with me, even if you are racist or you hate the ANC and the direction the country has taken these past few years, surely casting aspersions on the Constitutional Court is cutting off your nose to spite your face? This is such a dangerous precedent to plant in the minds of our young people, first-time voters and people who want to participate in deciding on their destiny.

But no, it does not stop there. Helen Zille goes further and casts aspersions on our Independent Electoral Commission as well, with her lapdog Steenhuisen following suit. Seriously guys, the same IEC that has been led with distinction by eminent individuals over the years? That has never given us any reason to suspect that it is compromised and/or do the bidding of any political party?

This is the same IEC that accommodated the IFP at the very last second in 1994 to put it on the ballot. The same IEC that has always conducted itself honourably. That has managed the subsequent general elections, of which there have been no fewer than six over the past 27 years, freely and fairly.

This same IEC today, according to Zille, has now been captured by the ANC, so much so that the ruling party can influence the direction of the electoral commission. This allegation, as correctly pointed out by my friend JJ Tabane, means that electoral fraud or rigging has been the order of the day in our elections. I’m not sure I agree with him, but I know I disagree with Zille’s stance. Why? Because it is cynical and dangerous for our collective future.

Can it be that a ruling party can capture the IEC? Of course it can. Can it be that the ANC has a direct line to the apex court judges? Of course it can. But these are such serious allegations that one must demand, where is the evidence to prove this?

I, like many progressive democrats, have sworn to protect our democracy and our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and as such it is our collective duty to defend our institutions that are beyond reproach. And until such time that evidence is provided to the contrary, I make no apology for stating: shame on you Helen and John. For narrow party-political benefit, you are prepared to scupper all that so many have fought and died for.

The next time you so lightly make these serious allegations, think of the children and the impact it may have on their young minds. It reminds me of another defeatist argument, when it comes to Nelson Mandela. We might rejoice in the fact that so many young people at universities and institutions of higher learning have cast aspersions on Mandela as having been a sellout and someone more concerned with reconciliation with whites than the economic emancipation of us blacks, but you know and I know, this is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

For Mandela was so much more than just a reconciler — he was necessary at a given time and he was fallible, of course.

As I was thinking about these matters before putting pen to paper, I wondered about this concept of free and fair. What does it really mean? The overall mandate of the IEC, when all is said and done, is to provide free and fair elections. Meaning, the environment surrounding the elections must make people feel safe, the administration must be up to scratch, the political parties must preferably not engage in political violence and everyone must feel they can equally participate in such elections, whether it be through registering to vote or by running for public office.

This is, in the main, the mandate of the IEC. So, you try to get the elections postponed by the apex court since it is a constitutional matter, and because the IEC felt that due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on all citizens, it will not necessarily be a free and fair environment. The apex court disagreed and instructed that the elections must go ahead on a date between 27 October and 1 November.

Fine, but the IEC then says, well, now that the matter has been settled by our court, it’s only right that we hold a registration weekend so that as many first-time voters as possible can register — and also because there have been some candidates who did not register on time. In support of a free and fair election, let’s allow them to complete this process too. 

After all, why would anyone want to disagree with such an approach? Clearly, this straightforward reasoning does not hold: oh no, there’s a conspiracy at play here, according to Helen and John. So very disappointing.

So, before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, Helen and John, as Zizek keeps reminding us, THINK! DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    So the ANC didn’t get that extension just because the concourt allowed the elections to be postponed for 5 days which then gave the IEC the opportunity to give that new window of registering candidates?

  • Brandon VE says:

    Well this didn’t age well.

  • Brandon VE says:

    Registration of voters and candidates can be done Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.
    You can go there right to register as a voter.
    If candidate registration wasn’t closed, after registering a a voter you could proceed straight to candidate registration at the same office.
    Ordinarily a ward candidate would be a long standing resident and undoubtedly already registered as a voter. But the way ANC candidates are shuffled around they need to register as voters first in the wards the party has assigned them to.
    That’s where the problem has come in for the ANC.

  • Hans Wendt says:

    In whatever way dear Oscar wants to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, there is one set of rules for the ANC and another for the rest of the country.
    The IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini, a Zuma appointee and ANC acolyte, announced that the candidate registration process will reopen on 20 September. This is purely for the ANC’s sake and is an opportunity that has never been granted before to other parties including the IFP in 2011 and the NFP in 2016.
    It is therefore possible that the ANC’s sudden withdrawal of its court action to have the candidate registration process reopened was due to a tip-off by a judge.
    With the ANC having captured our democratic institutions, thank goodness we still have someone like Helen Zille.

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      “… there is one set of rules for the ANC and another for the rest of the country.” and that is the honest truth. Well said.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    The ANC concept of free and fair is; free cash from the trough, and fair if it benefits the ANC.

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    There does appear to have been bias in the reopening of the candidate ‘list to the ANC as previous parties in the recent past, the IFP and more latterly the NFP were debarred for late entry . In addition, there is an excellent article in Business Day where Terry Tselane quite clearly and succinctly points out that the IEC erred in this case. In any event , let us wait for the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    Ja, nê. So if you can’t be a very popular political party, join the race for the title of very populist? 🤦🏽‍♂️

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      And if you already are a populist party, you can just ignore all rules, laws and regulations, and never need to face any accountability as the tax payer will finance you and your lawyers.

  • Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg says:

    The “I” in IEC should stand for Ignorant rather than Independent.

  • Lawrence Jacobson says:

    Agreed and well said. Both our judiciary and the IEC are fundamental and reliable pillars on which our democracy. Sure, the people working in these institutions are not islands. They have political affiliations and beliefs, which might impact their judgements. That is why in America it was so important for the Republicans to hypocritically elect a Supreme Court successor to Ruth Ginsberg despite refusing to do this under similar circumstances when Obama was in power.

    The governing party gets a bigger say in electing Constitutional Court justices and the Electoral Commission. The failure of opposition parties to capitalise on ANC mismanagement is something these parties need to address. One day, hopefully, we will live in a country where a change of government is possible at every election. Until then, we legally and correctly have a situation where the governing party’s world view is reflected in the judiciary and Chapter 9 institutions.

    We need to defend these institutions with everything we have. It becomes too easy to cry capture every time decisions do not go our way.

    Personally, I believe the IEC has made the correct decision. They are tightly restricted in their choice of direction. The restrictions come from the Constitution and the relevant Electoral Acts. Any deviation from what they “have” to do, opens the door for the elections and the results of the elections to be challenged.

  • Caroline White says:

    When politicians attack precious institutions like the ConCourt and the IEC, they MUST produce evidence of exactly what has gone wrong. Undermining without proof is undemocratic and risks being nothing but destructive.

  • District Six says:

    Sadly, the Zille and the DA do not care if they cut their nose nor do they seem to think strategically, for that matter. It’s winner takes all for them, and since they’re never likely to actually win, it’s a zero-sum. They are the types who are so politically desperate they would scuttle the boat for any smidgeon of victory. Pathetic really. It makes it possible to scuttle my vote rather than give it for their kind of madness. They are going to end up as a one-Province party because they have nothing of national significance to offer except the perpetual whinge. Come to think of it, the ANC and the DA share one thing in common – they both treat voters as if we’re idiots.

  • Andrew Joubert says:

    Cast the die, not the “dye”

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Two things:

    “… the political parties must “preferably” not engage in political violence … ” Er, Oscar, where does this “preferably” come from? What does it mean, actually? That the preferred route is non-violence, but that a violent route would suffice?


    If you cannot see a raft of relief in the ConCourt ruling on the IEC matter for the ANC’s self-inflicted c*ck-up vis-a-vis the registrations, then you are completely ANC-blinkered.

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