Tlokwe vote 'fixed'

2014-01-26 14:00

By-elections could be SA’s first proven case of vote-rigging as the country heads towards general elections

False addresses, voting outside registered areas and bussing in out-of-town voters were allegedly uncovered in Potchefstroom’s recent by-elections – amounting to what could be South Africa’s first proven case of vote-rigging.

As the country heads towards general elections, the electoral court in Bloemfontein will next month hear an application by eight independent candidates from North West’s Tlokwe municipality.

Court papers reveal that as many as 2 500 questionable registered voters may have participated in the by-elections in nine wards of the highly contested municipality, eight of which were won by the ANC. In their replying papers, the IEC claims the allegations are unfounded.

The ruling party needed to retain at least four of the nine wards to take control of the council back from the DA.

The application – in which the independent councillors have asked for the election result to be set aside and an independent investigation instituted – contains allegations that:

»?At least 500 voters whose addresses fall outside of the by-election wards were allowed to vote;

»?At least 600 voters registered with incomplete or false addresses on voter registration forms;

»?At least 31 voters were reregistered in contested wards and transported from the North West towns of Delareyville and Klerksdorp, and Free State towns including Bothaville and Parys, especially for the by-elections; and

»?The Independent Electoral Commission and the ANC colluded to inflate voter numbers in contested wards.

Taxi full of ANC supporters

This week, City Press walked the streets of Tlokwe and found three voters who admitted to voting in the contested wards of Ikageng and Promosa despite the fact that they lived in and were registered in neighbouring wards.

A 25-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said a group of ANC canvassers came to her house twice – on election day and the day before.

Although she was already registered to vote in Tlokwe’s Ward 19 and had voted there before, the canvassers told her she could vote in contested Ward 18.

T-shirts and blankets “I was told to make sure that the ANC wins. We were promised T-shirts and caps, which never came,” she said, adding that she was taken in a taxi “full of ANC supporters” and she voted for the ANC at the Chris Hani Community Hall.

“An ANC official was inside the voting station asking us to vote for the ANC. He promised us food parcels, T-shirts and caps if we voted for the ANC candidate,” she claimed.

Five houses away on the opposite side of Ikageng’s Itereleng Street, Zweli Mathebula (38) and his mother, Jane (69), who live in Ward 19, say they were visited on election day by party canvassers.

Zweli said they were told they qualified to vote at the Chris Hani community hall, despite the fact that they were registered to vote at Ditealong Primary School, situated outside the contested ward.

Zweli said they were taken by taxi to the voting station and given ANC T-shirts, and they voted for the ruling party.

He says an official wearing an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) T-shirt encouraged him to vote for the ANC as “voting for other parties will not get you anywhere”.

Jane said she was promised a blanket as well, which she never received.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela declined to comment on what City Press had found before next month’s court case.

However, she did say the IEC had developed “internal measures” to detect potential voter-registration fraud, including training their officials and “equipping them with a set of values”.

Voter registration forms

City Press is in possession of copies of the 2 500 REC1 forms – forms voters fill in when they register – which are alleged to be suspicious. Of those, 340 voters are registered as living in the Maricana informal settlement. The settlement falls inside Ward 17, according to maps from the municipal demarcation board, but residents were registered to vote in the contested Ward 13.

Other forms appear to indicate 31 out-of-town voters who were reregistered to vote in Tlokwe just days after they were registered to vote in districts including Mafikeng, Delareyville, Bothaville, Parys and Klerksdorp.

Independent councillor David Kham, who is being represented in court by DA Tlokwe councillor and lawyer Hans-Jurie Moolman, claims that he was never allowed to access the full voters roll containing the addresses of registered voters.

But in his responding papers, IEC chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said there was no need for the independents to apply to the electoral court. He also questioned why they had not objected to the voters roll earlier.

“No evidential material has been brought before the court in support of the allegations made,” Moepya said, adding that his “own administrative investigation into allegations” show the allegations had no substance.

City Press approached ANC officials, including party spokespeople Jackson Mthembu and Keith Khoza, provincial spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi and North West provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, for comment on the allegations. Mahumapelo said via SMS that provincial secretary Dakota Legoete would respond, but no response was forthcoming.

Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto said there had been previous incidents of election fraud reported, but none had been proved.

He said: “It is illegal to vote at the ward you did not register under. This leads to chaos, lack of accountability and those who are elected have no incentive to be accountable to the voters”.

Whistle-blowers

The allegations of vote fraud came after another independent candidate, Johannes Johnson, was approached by an “IEC whistle-blower” on December 3 last year.

In his founding affidavit, Kham says the whistle-blower told Johnson the IEC wrongly registered 2 100 voters living in wards outside of those contested. But an investigation of the forms revealed the figure was closer to 2 500, he claimed.

In papers, Kham cites another voter, Anna Sebueng, who told him she never registered to vote in Ward 18, but was taken to the polling station and allowed to vote. The form, which she said was completed on her behalf, contained a false address.

Bapela said registration officials were given voting-district maps to see if those who were registering lived within specific wards.

“There is, however, a substantial proportion of South Africans living in rural areas and informal settlements who do not have a conventional address,” she said.

In his affidavit, Moepye said the IEC did not have the capacity to verify each voter’s address.

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