IEC admits voter fraud

2014-08-31 15:00

Electoral commission admits 1?040 votes in Tlokwe are suspect, but insists election result was not affected. Opposition parties say they are losing faith in the process

The Independent Commission (IEC) has admitted that 1?040 illegal voters made their mark in the controversial Tlokwe municipal by-elections last year.

But in papers before the Electoral Court, the commission insisted the illegal votes didn’t change the outcome of the elections.

The IEC’s admission is contained in a rejoinder affidavit filed in June and signed by chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya.

It came after City Press revealed in January that as many as 2?500 questionable registered voters might have participated in the hotly contested by-elections.

The by-elections were called after nine ANC councillors were fired by their party for refusing to support former Tlokwe mayor Mapetla Mapetla.

Independent candidates in nine of the municipality’s wards asked the court to set aside the results and institute an independent investigation.

The ANC won eight of the nine wards.

The case, which has dragged on since December, was postponed again in June and was supposed to be heard last month. But it was again postponed indefinitely after Moepya’s affidavit revealed that some registrations were illegal.

Late last year, Moepya told the court he had conducted an investigation into the by-elections and found no evidence of any wrongdoing. He said independent candidates’ vote-rigging claims were unsubstantiated.

But after the City Press report, in which we interviewed three voters who voted outside their wards, IEC staff undertook a desktop investigation using a spatial address database provided by Tlokwe’s former acting municipal manager.

A team was then sent to the town to investigate further.

IEC investigators analysed 3?832 people who had voted in the election and found that only 2?108 had been correctly registered.

In court papers, the IEC admitted “1?040 voters ­applied for registration outside the ward of their residence”.

A further “332 did not have sufficient conventional addresses provided by the municipality” and “359 applicants were registered in other voting districts”.

Despite this, Moepya stated in his affidavit the  questionable votes would not have affected the  election result, and also that the IEC tallied the number of problematic voters in each ward and compared the number with the winning margin.

In each case, the winning margin exceeded the number of illegal voters, he said.

In its submission, the IEC said the growing number of informal settlements, most notably Marikana– where the municipality provided no services – made it difficult to ensure that each person voted in the correct district.

But independent candidates refused to accept this and questioned the IEC’s number of 1?040 illegal voters – insisting the number is far higher.

They also questioned the spatial address database the IEC used for its research, arguing the list was provided by the politically biased municipal manager whom the IEC itself rejected as an electoral official.

In his answering affidavit filed this week, former councillor David Kham said it was highly possible there were far more illegal voters than those who were found.

This, he said, was because the spatial database contained only the names of people who were billed by the municipality for services, and if a household did not pay the council any money, their names would not feature on the database.

The names of other members of their household would also be omitted from it.

The Tlokwe vote-rigging issue has been a dark cloud hanging over the IEC, with opposition parties citing it as one of the reasons they are losing trust in the country’s electoral process.

Two weeks ago, DA leader Helen Zille said the Electoral Court’s delay in hearing and ruling on the matter undermined the trust parties had in the IEC and the court.

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