Political parties have been warned not to spread disinformation for political gain ahead of the local government elections.
With the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) code of conduct coming into effect last week, parties could be fined up to R200,000, among other penalties, for violating the code, according to the Local Government Election Anti-Disinformation Project.
The 2021 Local Government Election Anti-Disinformation Project was launched in anticipation of local government elections, scheduled for 1 November.
The project was announced last week as a first-of-its-kind common-purpose “country duty” collaborative project against disinformation and misinformation.
Its partners include Right2Know Campaign and Code For Africa, among others.
According to the project’s coordinator Phumzile van Damme, they will be monitoring and focusing on online political discourse, messaging emanating from political parties and government.
“We will be using technological tools as well as data science to carefully monitor not only conversations on social media because that’s where a lot of disinformation is spread, but also media.
“We believe it’s important not only for political parties to be truthful and how they communicate with the public, but it’s also important that we carefully monitor and if we encounter disinformation, we will try and nip it in the bud before it becomes harmful. We have seen that disinformation has led to violence as we saw in July.
“We will be sending such instances to the Electoral Court to adjudicate and hand down any sanction they deem appropriate,” she told eNCA.
While more than 200 political parties and at least 65,000 independent candidates are expected to participate in the elections, if found guilty of spreading false information, parties can be forced to:
- Forfeit their election deposit
- Have their party registration and votes cancelled
Political parties and and independent candidates contesting across all elections – which include 44 district councils, 205 local councils, eight metros and 4,468 wards – will have to pay R482,000 in deposits.
New election date
The local elections are set to take on 1 November, with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma confirming the date last Wednesday.
The announcement came after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ordered the IEC to hold the municipal elections between 27 October and 1 November.
The voter registration weekend will be on 18-19 September.
Applications for special votes will open 20 September and close on 4 October.
In May this year, the IEC revealed that R1.9 billion had been budgeted to cover the cost of the elections.
Additional reporting by Thapelo Lekabe.