Judge Kriegler praises ousted IEC chair

2016-03-10 18:27


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Stellenbosch - The resignation of former chair of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) Pansy Tlakula was regrettable, as she was one of the most competent and knowledgeable people for the job, Judge Johann Kriegler said on Wednesday evening in Stellenbosch.

Speaking at the Frederick van Zyl Slabbert discussion forum at the Woordfees, Kriegler, who steered the IEC through the first democratic elections in 1994, said he believed the whole issue around the lease of the IEC building in Pretoria was an "administrative blunder" and not an act of corruption.

Tlakula eventually resigned in the wake of these allegations.

"The commission really lost such a competent person. In the end, the commission lost her due to considerations that had nothing to do with her ability to do her job."

Kriegler soothed fears that the local government election, which constitutionally must be held by August, was in jeopardy.

"I have no doubt that the IEC will be able to resolve their issues, and that the election will happen. An election always creates rumours," he said, and in this case it was fueled by the by-election woes in Tlokwe.

"But I think the IEC has learnt their lesson, and I think they will be heading back to court soon to find out exactly what is needed for the voters’ list."

The initial by-election in Tlokwe was declared invalid after parties insisted on seeing the list of addresses of the voters, which the IEC was unable to provide. This raised major concerns of vote rigging.

"The dilemma now is that the IEC need to hear from the court whether they need to verify the addresses of every single person on the voters’ list, or whether the process should start with people who only register now," Kriegler said.

"To compile a comprehensive list before August will be an impossible task – too many people have no address, because where they live, there is no street name or even erf number. So the IEC will have to go back to the Constitutional Court for clarity."

Kriegler said another major challenge for the IEC was that it restores its image as a credible, independent organisation.

"The role of the chairperson, more than anything else, is to uphold that credible image and inspire confidence – the actual work is done by the administrative staff, who knows exactly what they’re doing.

"So, there is no need to worry that the new chairperson, Vuma Mashinini, can rig the elections. In any case, voting cannot be rigged at the polling station."

Opposition parties have voiced their concern over the appointment of Mashinini, claiming he was too close to President Jacob Zuma. Mashinini was a former special projects adviser to the president.

"We have reason to be thankful for the ruling party that we... are infinitely better off than other countries. I for one have confidence in the ability of people to do their jobs (in making the election happen)," Kriegler said.

"And we can pride ourselves that that two aspects of elections that we established – that ballot papers are counted at the respective voting stations and the results announced there, as well as the multi-party forum that sort out any issues around the voting – have been adopted worldwide."

Seasoned political journalist Jan-Jan Joubert, from the discussion panel, cautioned that violence could break out in areas where suspicions surface of vote rigging.

He suggested the interesting areas to watch would be the far north of KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg - where the DA has put up strong candidates - and the mining areas.

Read more on:    iec  |  pansy tlakula  |  politics

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