The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is ready to hold new by-elections in Tlokwe, in the North West, following the Constitutional Court’s decision to set aside the results in several wards.“The Electoral Commission commits itself to implementing the orders of the court without delay and stands ready to hold fresh by-elections in the affected wards [one, four, 11, 12, 13, 18 and 20] in Tlokwe as soon as possible,” it said in a statement.
The Constitutional Court found on Monday that the by-elections held in those wards in 2013 were not free and fair. The applicants were eight independent candidates and the ANC won all but one of the contested wards.
Before the elections, the candidates had lodged objections with the IEC over voter registrations in their respective wards. In the December by-elections in six wards, the applicants complained of delays in receiving the segments of the national voters’ roll to be used for the by-elections.
Electoral Court rejected the candidates’ claims
These segments also did not include the residential addresses for any voters. The candidates approached the Electoral Court for an order that the December by-elections be postponed, but the court was unable to convene to hear the application.
The December by-elections went ahead and six of the candidates lost. Following the by-elections, the IEC conducted its own investigation into the allegation that voters not entitled to register in these wards had been registered and their participation affected the by-election results.
“[The IEC] concluded there were a number of such registrations and some of those voters had voted, but in no case had they done so in sufficient numbers to affect the result of the elections,” the Constitutional Court said. The Electoral Court rejected the candidates’ claims and dismissed the application.
The candidates argued in the Constitutional Court that the results in the wards be set aside, relying on the irregularities that emerged from the IEC’s own investigation.
‘The IEC welcomes the clarity’
The court said it is a legal requirement for the chief electoral officer, when registering a voter on the voters’ roll, to register that voter in the voting district in which they ordinarily resided.
“This requirement had not been observed by the IEC. In addition, the obligation to provide all candidates with a copy of the relevant segment of the voters’ roll containing the addresses of voters in the ward with their addresses was also ignored.”
The IEC said it had already implemented policy initiatives. including disseminating “materials to educate the public about the serious consequences of committing electoral fraud such as in providing false information to register in a voting district where you are not ordinarily resident”.
It also implemented a decision to capture address details before the proclamation date of an election. “The Electoral Commission has traditionally accepted the address details as provided by voters without requiring proof of residence.
The commission welcomes the clarity which the [Constitutional Court] has provided in the ruling the Electoral Commission ‘is obliged to obtain sufficient particularity of the voter’s address to enable it to ensure the voter is at the time of registration ordinarily resident in that voting district’,” it said.
“The commission is also considering further measures governing elections to further reduce opportunities for irregular and fraudulent voting. These include possibly closing the voters’ roll for a ward immediately when a vacancy arises.”