Tlokwe by-election ‘candidates prejudiced’

2013-10-10 15:08

The independent candidates disqualified from taking part in Tlokwe’s recent by-elections were severely prejudiced, the Electoral Court has said.

The court was yesterday making known its reasons for handing down an order on September 17 postponing the by-elections in five Tlokwe wards.

Due to the urgency of the matter, which was heard a day before the by-elections of September 18, the court issued only an order and indicated it would supply reasons later.

The court ordered that the by-elections in five wards – one, four, 11, 12 and 20 – be postponed.

It instructed the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to investigate the conduct of suspended Potchefstroom electoral officer John Makodi.

It further held that former ANC candidates Aaron Mhlope, Johanna Xaba, Ntombi Dikupe, Catherine Molefe and James Zicina, standing as independents, be allowed to register in their wards for the postponed by-elections.

Giving its reasons for the decision, the Electoral Court held that the IEC had failed to facilitate the participation of the candidates in the by-elections. This would have resulted in the elections not being free and fair.

Makodi’s conduct in not properly helping the candidates, in compliance with the Municipal Electoral Act, also severely prejudiced them.

For this reason, the IEC’s disqualification of the candidates was reviewed and set aside.

The court said the IEC had a duty not only to act as a verifying agent regarding strict compliance with legislation, but also had a duty to help voters and candidates obtain sufficient knowledge of the electoral process.

“It should promote a culture of helpfulness to all involved in elections; it should display willingness to assist those members of the public who wish to participate in elections, such assistance not being restricted to voters alone, but also to candidates,” the court found.

It held that the IEC should develop a system to verify compliance with legislation when candidates submitted documents and to help prospective candidates comply with the requirements.

The court found that the IEC’s independence and impartiality would be strengthened if it effectively responded to issues and helped candidates participate in elections.

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