The case for an independent audit of the election results

2019-05-13 11:56
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) staff members empty the ballot box at the Brixton Recreational Centre voting station in Brixton, Johannesburg, as part of the vote for South African general elections. (Michele Spatari / AFP)

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) staff members empty the ballot box at the Brixton Recreational Centre voting station in Brixton, Johannesburg, as part of the vote for South African general elections. (Michele Spatari / AFP)

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The 2019 elections have come and gone, the national and provincial winners have been announced, and the IEC has declared the whole affair free and fair. In the face of mutterings by some of the smaller parties to contest the election results, calls are being made by both the ANC and the IEC to accept the outcome as the will of the people.

Under ordinary circumstances and in an ordinary democracy, the call for acceptance of the results would be fair in my opinion. The ANC was the clear winner, after all, perhaps a bit battered and bruised, but there is no denying that the results indicate that the ANC has won the election with a convincing majority.

South Africa is no ordinary democracy, however, and the circumstances of this election are no ordinary circumstances. In fact, in my view they are quite extraordinary. This is an election that will determine the future of South Africa in a profound and fundamental way: we are dealing with a government that is intent, and has publicly stated as much, on amending the Constitution upon which South Africa's system and character of governance rest.

Now, the ANC on its own, with just over 57% of the voting population's support, does not have the necessary majority to effect any changes to the Constitution of South Africa. Coupled with the EFF, however, who has managed to attract just over 10% of the national vote, the two parties are in a position to cooperate, and if they do so, they have the power to turn South Africa and the future of its people on any course that they desire. Such a course could be limited to expropriation of private property without compensation, which has been unambiguously stated as a common goal for both parties, or it could go as far as changing the very foundations upon which our democracy rests.

Here is the truth of the matter: with the ANC and the EFF having united over 67% of voters' support upon themselves, they can pretty much do any damn thing they please from here on out. In my view, that is pretty extraordinary, given the anti-democratic rhetoric that often emanates from both the ANC's and EFF's quarters.

Given this scenario, where a 1% change in the results of the ANC and/or EFF can have a dramatic effect on the future of South Africa from here on forward, should the election results simply be accepted based on verbal assurances by the ANC and the IEC?

In my view there is a strong case for a formal, independently observed audit of the 2019 election results, and especially in view of the power that these results bestow upon the ANC and the EFF.

A fair question to ask at this point is whether there are any indications that the election may not have been free and fair. Again, given the extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in, I cannot but insist that there are enough indications that voting processes may have been compromised.

First and foremost, we need to bear in mind that we are dealing with the ANC. Over the past 25 years the ANC has proven itself to be made up of people who will stoop to the lowest possible depths of dishonest, criminal behaviour in their greed and lust for power and wealth. The depth and breadth of corruption that are being exposed on a daily basis in the media make it clear that these repugnant tendencies are not limited to a select few. On the contrary, the scale of criminal activity by ANC deployees indicates that the web spread far and wide, involving very large numbers of people at all levels of government. Simply put, the ANC has proven itself to be utterly and completely untrustworthy when it comes to matters of honour, principle, truth, honesty, ethics and service.

A case in point: in the run up to the election, the ANC's number one man in the party, their secretary general, Ace Magashule, was found to have handed over cash to a potential voter while doing his rounds drumming up support for the party. And after there was an outcry in the media about this incident, he repeated it once more. Of course, Magashule made the incident out to be one of compassion and empathy. How could he, faced with the desperation of a person in need, not assist them there and then, by sticking his hand in his pocket and handing over some cash?

The offered excuse is one that can be expected from an opportunistic liar and a cheat. If Magashule had honestly been moved by the plight of the poor – under his party's governance, mind you – he could just as easily have sent someone back with the cash after the commotion surrounding his presence in a poor neighbourhood had died down. He could have made a donation anonymously. But he didn't. He insisted on doing it in full view of everyone present, despite its being completely contrary to electoral law and regulations.

Where was the strong rebuke from the IEC of Magashule? Where was the reprimand from his party? Did I miss them? Does this mean that in future elections, party deployees can roam the townships with bundles of cash in their attempts to drum up support? What Ace Magashule did was an illegal act of corruption. In full view of the entire country. And he is the secretary general of the ANC.

Make no mistake, when dealing with the ANC and its deployees, there is reason to be paranoid. The need for extraordinary measures is warranted.

So, we have a very important election, with a very important result, and we have a main role player who cannot be trusted, and who happens to have won by enough of a margin to do as they please, if they are prepared to cooperate with the EFF. Is it surprising that there have been recent calls from within the ANC, one from the very same Ace Magashule, but also from the minister of finance, Tito Mboweni, for the two leaders of the EFF to return to the ANC fold? Hardly.

Is it furthermore surprising that there are allegations from smaller parties that they witnessed double voting by members of the EFF? Hardly.

Personally, I witnessed no double voting at the voting station where I performed my civic duty on 8th May. What I do have anecdotal evidence of, however, is no less alarming, namely the potential for IEC officials to spoil the ballots of voters who could reasonably be expected to not support the ANC.

Early on the morning of voting day, as soon as the voting stations opened, we started getting WhatsApp messages on our local community group, cautioning voters to ensure that they were receiving stamped ballots from the IEC officials in attendance. An unstamped ballot, would of course be a spoilt ballot, and the vote cast on it would not be counted towards the party it supported.

Later, at the voting station, when I was near the front of the queue, a gentleman who had just voted came out of the voting tent and walked down the queue, again cautioning that we should check that we are receiving properly stamped ballot papers, because he had not received one, and he had had to insist that his ballot papers be stamped before posting them in the ballot boxes.

Yes, granted, this is anecdotal evidence at best. But does that make it any less real? Why would we get numerous cautionary electronic messages about unstamped ballot papers and, additionally, one in person from someone who claimed it had just happened to him? What could they possibly gain by lying about it?

Moreover, is it reasonable to expect some ballot papers to not be stamped? Is this an oversight that one can expect to happen just as a matter of course?

At the voting station that I attended, a single IEC official was responsible for stamping and handing me two folded, stamped ballot papers. Hardly a demanding task. A task that a child could perform reliably for hours without making a single mistake, I would say.

Would it be fair to say then, that if an unstamped ballot paper was handed to a voter, it can reasonably be expected to be a deliberate act of sabotage of someone's right to cast a valid vote?

According to the election results, the number of spoilt ballot papers amounted to more than 1% of votes cast. How many of those spoilt papers were spoilt because the ballot papers had not been stamped? In an election where a percentage point can make a difference between keeping the constitution of South Africa intact, or handing it over into the hands of the likes of Ace Magashule and Julius Malema, I make no apology for wanting to know.

Spoilt ballot papers. Double voting. An utterly corrupt ANC. A democracy teetering on the edge.

Is there a case for a formal, independently observed audit of the results of the 2019 South African elections?

You be the judge.


Read more on:    iec  |  elections 2019

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