Cape Town – With just more than three months left to go until local government elections, government was trying to ensure it had all voters' addresses in a bid to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling, MPs heard on Tuesday.
A sub-committee consisting of eight government departments and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Eskom, Statistics SA and the South African Post Office (Sapo), had been formed to find ways of assigning addresses to households without formal addresses.
The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), led by Deputy Minister Andries Nel, discussed the country’s readiness for the local government elections at a joint committee meeting.
Cogta Director General Vusi Madonsela urged South Africans to make sure they provided addresses to the IEC before the election date was gazetted by the minister.
"The question the court must help us answer, is what should the IEC do with those people who are on the voters' roll, but there are no addresses next to them. It’s not up to the IEC to decide whether those people can vote. The court will have to guide us in terms of what we do," Madonsela said.
He said there were an estimated 7.9 million people who did not have addresses at all, and millions who had generic addresses.
Nel told the committee the fact that a person was on the voters' roll and had voted before did not mean the IEC had an address for that voter.
He said the IEC was faced with the challenge of people who had been voting for 10 years, but had never provided addresses before.
Nel said he had also received a SMS from the IEC notifying him that they did not have an address for him, even though he had lived in the same place for 20 years.
The need to have voters’ addresses was an attempt to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling that the 2013 Tlokwe by-elections were not free and fair.
It was handed down in November last year. The court ruled that all new voters who registered had to have address details, or sufficient details of where they lived, to place them in a voting district.
In February this year, the Electoral Court again halted the Tlokwe by-elections after six independent candidates complained that more than 4 198 addresses were missing from the new voters' roll.
The IEC had approached the Constitutional Court to seek clarity on the ruling, including the question of whether lack of addresses would invalidate the roll.
Geo-referenced dwelling frame
Madonsela said on Tuesday that if the court adopted a firm stance on the addresses, then the potential to disenfranchise millions of people was much greater.
"Which is something we hope the court will not take very lightly," he said.
According to an IEC statement issued in February, about eight million of the country’s 25 million registered voters had no conventional address details listed.
Local government elections are to be held on Wednesday, August 3.
Cogta’s Kevin Naidoo said the sub-committee, led by Stats SA and Sapo, had already started working on the problem.
Stats SA had proposed using a "geo-referenced dwelling frame", which was a complete, up-to-date database of all dwellings and other structures in the country, to assign addresses to households.
He said the assignment of addresses did not fall within the IEC’s mandate.