New IEC boss: It's about perception

2015-10-15 09:21
Vuma Mashinini. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe/The Times

Vuma Mashinini. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe/The Times

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Opposition parties have reacted with shock to the appointment of  President Jacob Zuma's former special projects adviser Vuma Glenton Mashinini as the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Zuma confirmed the appointment in a statement issued yesterday.

Pointing to Mashinini’s experience in the election process, the statement said: “Mashinini served as deputy chief electoral officer of the IEC from 1998 to 2001 where he was responsible for the establishment and administration of the national head office, all nine provincial electoral offices and about 350 municipal electoral offices.”

Mashinini took up a position as a commissioner of the IEC in May amid criticism from the Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters and other opposition parties that he was perceived to be too close to Zuma.

He had worked in the presidency for five years, including as special projects adviser since 2012.

The ANC defended the appointment at the time, and said that Mashinini had the right qualifications, had proceeded through a rigorous selection process and his role in the presidency was as a public servant, not a party-political appointment.

Applying for the position of commissioner earlier this year, Mashinini was among 14 shortlisted candidates who were interviewed by a panel chaired by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, with deputy public protector Kevin Malunga, chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission Lawrence Mushwana and chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality, Mfanozelwe Shozi.

Reacting to the appointment to chairperson, constitutional law expert professor Pierre de Vos said that although Mashinini may be a “fantastic” candidate for the job, it was perception that often mattered.

“Unfortunately, and whether it is correct or not, it will give opposition parties who lose elections some ammunition to complain. Whether this is correct or not I have no idea, but I won’t be surprised if it is brought up.”

“The IEC should be beyond reproach and any sniff of a perception that it might not be gives losers ammunition.”

EFF MP Hlengiwe Maxon said the EFF was shocked. “We thought that Zuma would wait for all the commissioners to be appointed before selecting a chairperson. We opposed his appointment as commissioner. Now it is even worse, as chair. He was an adviser to Zuma and it will compromise the independence of the IEC. He won’t be neutral or objective. We are going to oppose it.”

DA MP Haniff Hoosen said that the DA would consider immediately what legal steps to take.

“I am very disappointed. It makes it worse than before. We will consider legal action.”

The position became vacant after IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula quit over a botched R320-million leasing deal last September.

A process is also under way to fill another vacancy on the electoral commission after commissioner Raenette Taljaard quit in February. A shortlist drawn up by the panel and submitted to Parliament was rejected for being “too white and too male”.

Of the eight names submitted, six were African males, one African female and one white female. The process is being restarted from scratch.

All four current commissioners are black males. In terms of the constitution, the composition of the electoral commission should “reflect broadly the race and gender composition of South Africa”.

The office of the chief justice has stated that the new shortlist process should be concluded by the end of November. Thereafter, the shortlist and recommendation needs to go through Parliament before being considered by Zuma.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  local elections 2016  |  iec

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