War at the IEC

2014-06-22 15:00

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It’s a case of commissioners versus the chief electoral officer as Pansy Tlakula’s fight to keep her job deepens tensions at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya is backing Tlakula and supports her bid to have the IEC pay her legal bills, while deputy chairperson Terry Tselane and commissioners Raenette Taljaard and Reverend Bongani Finca believe she should pay her own way.

The fight about legal bills will be discussed at a meeting on Friday.

Tlakula, the IEC’s chairperson, was dealt a third blow this week by the Electoral Court, which recommended that Parliament should order her to step down.

An investigation by the National Treasury that was conducted by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers and a probe by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela made adverse findings against Tlakula, relating to a R320?million lease deal for the commission.

Now she has taken a leave of absence from the commission and will continue to try to clear her name by turning to the Constitutional Court.

Moepya has been accused of taking a unilateral decision for the commission to foot Tlakula’s Electoral Court bills and of not consulting commissioners beforehand.

This has raised tension between him and Tselane.

City Press was informed by three insiders that commissioners are insisting that Tlakula repay the money, about R500?000, while Moepya is standing by the chairperson.

Moepya is expected to tell the commissioners at the meeting on Friday why he did not consult them before paying R500?000 to Tlakula’s lawyers.

Tselane told City Press that the commissioners would meet for the first time this week since the May 7 election to receive a legal opinion on whether the IEC was right to pay the bill.

The insiders said the bitter battle for control of the IEC is taking its toll on the commission’s work.

They said preparations for the 2016 municipal elections, which will begin soon with a meeting between commissioners and Municipal Demarcation Board leaders, could be affected by the leadership vacuum.

They said the tension that began after Madonsela’s report was released in August last year worsened this week after the Electoral Court recommended that Parliament remove Tlakula from her position.

“Since Madonsela issued her report, there have been cracks in the senior leadership with some commissioners not willing to speak publicly even though they believe Tlakula should be removed,” a source said.

“During the elections the divisions were swept under the carpet for the sake of showing a united front but workers know who belongs to which camp,” said an insider.

City Press has learnt that Tlakula has the backing of Moepya, while commissioners Tselane, Taljaard and Finca believe the IEC should not be paying for her legal defence.

Another commissioner, Judge Thami Makhanya, is said to have taken a “neutral” stance on the matter.

Tselane told City Press that he knows of someone who has been “peddling” rumours that he wants Tlakula’s job.

“I don’t harbour any ambitions to become chairperson,” he said, “but I know there is someone who has been peddling these rumours since we were appointed commissioners and this has come back again now.

“There are absolutely no divisions among commissioners.

“I wouldn’t know about other officials, but at the level of the commission there are no divisions,” Tselane insisted.

He said Tlakula’s leave of absence would not affect preparations for the municipal elections.

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