News / South Africa / Politics

Bernadette Wicks
Senior court reporter
2 minute read
21 Oct 2021
7:56 pm

IEC ‘unfair’ on ActionSA, says party’s advocate

Bernadette Wicks

ActionSA says the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC’s) exclusion of the party’s name on the ballot papers forthe local government elections has put the freedom and fairness of the polls in jeopardy. The two squared off over the issue in the Electoral Court on Thursday, when ActionSA pointed to the commission’s mandate to ensure free […]

Herman Mashaba speaks during a press conference at the Radisson Blu Gautrain hotel in Sandton, 6 October 2021. Picture: Neil McCartney

ActionSA says the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC’s) exclusion of the party’s name on the ballot papers for
the local government elections has put the freedom and fairness of the polls in jeopardy.

The two squared off over the issue in the Electoral Court on Thursday, when ActionSA pointed to the commission’s mandate to ensure free and fair elections.

“Excluding a part of a party’s identification without forewarning renders the electoral process unfair for ActionSA,” the party’s advocate, Adila Hassim, argued.

“The ballot moment is the most important moment in an election because it is where citizens make their choice – alone and in private. Fairness requires clarity for the voters. That in turn requires a party’s identifiers to be depicted
on the ballot paper, so that there is no confusion.”

The move was both unlawful and unconstitutional, he said.

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“The absence of ActionSA’s name impedes its ability to fairly contest the municipal elections on a level playing field with other political parties. It also impedes the right of voters to effectively exercise their choice when voting.”

ActionSA brought an urgent application against the IEC earlier this month after the release of the draft ballot papers revealed that only the party’s logo had been included and not its name.

The IEC’s position is that it only included abbreviated names on the ballot papers and that ActionSA itself elected not to provide one when it registered as a party.

But ActionSA says it was never warned of the implications of this choice and that at only eight letters long, its full name fits the requirements for an abbreviated name.

The IEC has recommended the party apply for a change of identifier but ActionSA on Thursday argued because of the tight time frame, this was “impossible” and “entirely unnecessary”.

The IEC, however, says it never took the decision. Advocate Michael Bishop, for the IEC, on Thursday argued it had “merely implemented or applied” an earlier policy decision.

He maintained the design of the ballots was “entirely lawful and constitutional”.

Bishop said it was “entirely reasonable” to use abbreviations because the ballots must be 21cm wide.” Judgment was reserved.

bernadettew@citizen.co.za