UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has written a letter to the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Glen Mashinini, requesting an urgent meeting of all leaders of political parties represented in parliament following a report that the ANC had “attacked” and “intimidated” senior electoral officials, and allegedly wants a less independent elections body as it loses favour with voters.
At the weekend City Press reported that a “behind-the-scenes war” has been raging between the governing party and the commission. It said ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, at the post-results dinner on August 6 allegedly accused IEC vice-chairperson Terry Tselane of being an “enemy” in the presence of President Jacob Zuma.
The paper claimed that last week Monday the party held a high-level meeting with electoral commissioners with the ANC’s top five officials led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mashinini leading the body’s contingent at Luthuli House.
Tensions between the ANC and IEC allegedly originate from the commission’s purported snub of members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), a Cosatu-affiliated union. The party reportedly criticised the IEC for reducing the number of teachers given positions as electoral officers during election time.
“It is interesting to note that Mr Mantashe seems to be confirming that the appointment of teachers as electoral officers, is designed to disadvantage opposition parties and unduly benefit the ANC. Such an admission vindicates the view always held by opposition parties with regard to the ‘exclusive’ appointment of teachers as electoral officers,” Holomisa said.
He said the current composition of the IEC’s leadership needs to be “urgently scrutinised to ascertain whether they are all in the service of the nation or in the service of a political party.
“These allegations place a grey cloud over other Electoral Commissioners. It will not be far-fetched to question whether their loyalties are with the country, its citizens and the constitution or with the ANC. This is important, because from these allegations, it is clear that any Electoral Commissioner who does not sweeten the ANC will be regarded as an enemy and be dealt with accordingly.”
Holomisa added it was interesting that the ANC had a problem with Accenture – an information technology company that had been contracted with the IEC and worked for the organisation since 1997. He said its credibility had never been questioned by the party before, and it suddenly had objections because of its recent electoral loses in the country’s key metropolitans during the August 3 local polls.
“It begs a serious question: why does the ruling party now have an issue with Accenture and why was this matter never tabled at the appropriate body, ie, the National Party Liaison Committee (PLC).”
He said he was also aware that the ANC was allegedly considering altering the current party representation on the IEC’s PLC, in favour of proportional representation.
“We wish to obtain a detailed understanding of this development and its rationale,” he said.
The PLC is a statutory committee of the IEC made up of registered political parties represented in all spheres of government. They hold meetings with the commission on all electoral matters.
Meanwhile, DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Sunday described the alleged attacks on the IEC as the ANC’s latest “paranoid strategy” to take aim at its independence. He said it was concerning that Tselane had publically stated he had been followed, photographed and labelled an “enemy” by some ANC stalwarts, both before and after the elections.
Maimane said he would be requesting a meeting with the senior leadership of the IEC to address these “threats” and find solutions to ensure it “remains independent and protected from malicious political interference”.
“The ANC’s first real taste of defeat came last month, where the party lost control of several metros across the country. These bullying tactics are a plain attempt to exert more pressure and control over the IEC, and intimidate IEC officials. This must be resisted.
“The IEC is crucial to our democracy, and is one of the most sacred chapter 9 institutions. If the IEC goes, our democracy goes. Therefore, its independence must be safeguarded at all costs,” Maimane said in a statement.
According to the City Press the meeting between the ANC and IEC didn’t yield any agreements and a follow-up discussion is to be scheduled.