News / South Africa / Politics
With less than a month to go for local government elections political parties have threatened to take legal action against the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) following the exclusion of some names of parties from the ballot.
However, the IEC said it had not yet printed the final ballot papers and were using this time to fix any errors from the ballot sign-off.
According to the IEC’s Kate Bapela, political parties have always had direct access to the IEC and they had not printed out the final ballot papers yet, as candidate nominations only closed last week.
But Lerato Ngobeni, the spokesperson for ActionSA, one of the parties whose name was omitted from the ballot paper, claimed the IEC had indicated it had no plans to rectify the concerns raised by ActionSA and that the final ballot papers had already been printed.
Bapela refutes this: “After the candidate nominations we have to make sure that everything is ordered correctly and names have been filled in correctly and everybody is happy with what we have delivered, especially political parties and independent candidates,” she said.
“Once you print that green button is gone and we cannot risk printing without making sure that everything is correct. We have never done anything with the organisation without consulting the political parties, it has never happened in the history of the IEC.”
The Change Party and ActionSA accused the commission of “sabotage”, and cried foul over the omission of their names in the final draft ballot papers.
The political parties said they were both concerned with the omissions, whether deliberate or not, and said this could be fatal to the parties and votes as voters would struggle to find their names, come election day.
Change Party founder and president Lesiba Molokomme said the party had written to the IEC asking it to sort out the omission and to give this matter its urgent attention.
“We want the IEC to urgently correct this if they really are serious about seeing the full democratic process at play,”he said. They didn’t state a deadline in the letter.
“However, we will consider urgent legal action against them should they show no interest in addressing this matter by 12 noon [today].”
ActionSA’s Ngobeni said even if it was a mistake, the party had yet to receive a response from the IEC and remained convinced there was no effort to correct the error as they had missed their deadline and had not been communicated with.
“The fact that we were not the only party, does not excuse the IEC’s omission of any party’s name, not if they are acting in the best interests of the voter, a fair political and electoral processes undertaken in absolute good faith and in the highest interests of democracy,” she said.
She said they were in no position to claim that this was a malicious act, but it was undeniable that a pattern seemed to be emerging.
Last month, the IEC had omitted the party’s candidates for its lists in Gauteng, but the matter was quickly corrected by the IEC, she said.
“First it was issues with our logo, second it was our candidates list not appearing on the IEC’s published lists that sent our candidates into tailspins, worried that all the work they have done to date would be for naught,” Ngobeni said.
“By their own admission, the IEC claimed a clerical error. But now the omission of our name on the ballot.
“It’s hard not to wonder.” Change Party’s Molokomme said they also did not receive candidate certificates and the voters’ roll at the signing of the electoral code of conduct at the weekend.
He also said the commission had no right to cry foul and claim that it had not submitted an abbreviation as it was clear that an abbreviation was a necessity.
“If the IEC knows abbreviations are a must for the purposes of ballot papers they should have made it clear in the applications. There is no mention of such,” he said.
“If this is the case then the IEC would not approve any party without an abbreviation.”
ActionSA’s Ngobeni said their registration papers clearly stated that their name was never to be abbreviated and their supporters knew them as ActionSA and nothing else.
“Further, the IEC requires that an acronym not be more than eight characters which ActionSA is not, therefore falling within the parameters of that requirement,” she added.
In a tweet, Mashaba questioned the commission’s ability to run free and fair elections and said: “The ANC missed the deadline for candidate submission – the entire deadline was shifted by the IEC.
“ActionSA – the name of our party is excluded by the IEC from draft ballot papers – the IEC refuses to amend them. Free and fair?”