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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

IEC to hire more lawyers in face of mounting electoral challenges

After an election day that featured more question marks around the integrity of the elections than was expected, the commission is looking to beef up its legal team.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has beefed up its legal team in anticipation of likely challenges to the integrity of the 2019 elections, due to numerous incidents, resulting from staff blunders in handling voting material and widespread community protests.

A reliable source familiar with the matter said the IEC leadership met and discussed the need to strengthen the commission’s legal team because they anticipated numerous complaints from various political parties contesting in the election.

The parties were concerned about activities that hampered the start of the voting process yesterday morning, IEC officials caught acting contrary to the rules of the electoral process and their poor handling of voting material.

It was unclear which incidents the commission was concerned about that needed the attention of its lawyers.

The Freedom Front Plus lodged a complaint with the IEC after a sealed ballot box that appeared to contain ballot papers was found lying along the Old Pretoria Road near Cullinan yesterday morning.

FF+ spokesperson Philip van Staden, who is also the party’s Gauteng MPL, showed the complaint’s reference number 26181 as proof that his party had lodged an objection.

He said concerned party supporters phoned and sent a photograph of the box, which The Citizen had seen.

“We will be waiting for a response from the IEC,” Van Staden said.

The IEC confirmed 17 voting stations were not opened in the morning due to lack of access.

Of those, 14 were in KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, with the rest in the Eastern Cape, but the number had dropped to six by 4pm yesterday.

IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said a decision would be made later whether the affected stations would be allowed to stay open longer.

Mamabolo said besides the glitches encountered, almost all the stations opened on time. But some struggled to start due to IEC officials who arrived late for duty and voting material that was delivered late.

Various voting stations were inaccessible to voters for the better part of the morning due to protests by communities.

Democratic Alliance national spokesperson Solly Malatsi condemned the delays and the problems at voting stations. He said the shortage of ballot material at voting stations was an embarrassment for the IEC.

“In some instances, they came quickly to address the problem, but you don’t run out of papers,” he said.

Eco-Forum’s national spokesperson, Sihle Sibiya, said although his party was contesting the election for the first time, they were concerned about the disturbances to the voting process and misbehaviour of some IEC officials.

“The IEC needs to strengthen its recruitment system; we have raised some minor concerns.”

Eco-Forum was registered with IEC in 2016 but only contested the 2019 elections for the National Assembly and Gauteng province. – ericn@citizen.co.za

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