Dark shadow cast over integrity of IEC

2014-08-31 15:00

The admission by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in court papers that illegal voters had cast their votes in the highly contested by-elections in Tlokwe, North West, last year is a cause for concern.

In January, we exposed how as many as 2?500 suspected voters could have taken part in the elections in a fraudulent manner.

In papers filed in the Electoral Court, the IEC has conceded that 1?040 ineligible people did vote in the by-elections. But it insists their participation did not alter the results, which saw the ANC retain power in the municipality.

Opposition parties in North West had long flagged their suspicions about irregularities in a town bitterly contested after internal ANC fighting led to the DA taking control of the municipality.

They were dismissed as bitter losers, although local IEC officers were seen by the community to be acting in collusion with the governing party.

The IEC took a while to act on the complaints and had to be dragged to court for the truth to come out. It is patently nonsensical to argue that the irregularities will not affect the outcome of the elections.

Elections should be free and fair and above board. There should be no irregularities to start with. In this case, a key institution in the maintenance of our democracy has been found wanting.

Coupled with the case in which the Public Protector found improper conduct and maladministration on the part of IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula over a leasing agreement, there is reason to fear the IEC could be compromised.

It is time this institution took a hard look at itself and acknowledged that it has work to do in recapturing the overwhelming trust it once enjoyed among South Africans.

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