Don't tarnish our image, IEC tells parties

2016-01-28 18:41


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Johannesburg - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) issued a stern warning to all political parties on Thursday to refrain from making groundless statements about its credibility.

"We cannot continue operating with unsubstantiated allegations and allegations that you know very well are not correct," said IEC vice chairperson Terry Tselane, adding that political parties continued to tarnish its image.

"If these allegations cannot be substantiated with any credible evidence, then the political parties should not talk of it in public, because it’s not correct."

He also said that if anyone had information that was correct, they should approach the IEC lawyers.

He said they were worried that political parties, who regarded themselves as partners of the IEC, still tried to insult the organisation and bring it down.

Tselane said social media was an aspect which it had identified as a particular platform to better communicate with the country during the election period.

"We take social media very seriously and will be much more active on Facebook and Twitter than we were in 2014."

Call for compliance

The IEC called for compliance in order to have free and fair elections in 2016. The enforcement of this compliance was also a key aspect highlighted at the briefing.

"If compliance is the end-state, then what role must enforcement play in promoting compliance – and what are the other tools in our toolbox that we can use to help achieve this end-state?"

The "rule of thumb" – whereby it is believed that 5% of individuals will violate the rules no matter what, 20% will comply no matter what, and 75% will comply voluntarily, but only if they believe violators are caught and punished – was also used as a key point.

"If we are to convince the 75% of our population that we take the Code of Conduct and other election laws seriously, we must find the will and the means to prosecute all those who commit electoral misconduct and offences to the full extent of the law – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant."

According to Glen Mashinini, chairperson of the Electoral Commission, the focus should be on efforts to identify, not only election fraud, but also anyone who seeks to bar another candidate from using public facilities or canvassing freely in an area.

"However, enforcement is only one side of the solution. The problem with only enforcement as the primary tool for compliance is that it generally takes place only after the offence has been committed."

He said that detecting and prosecuting offenders of election laws and regulations after the election may provide a satisfactory legal solution, but came at a cost to the election itself and its free and fairness.

"Imposing a fine or jail sentence on a candidate who is guilty of intimidation may be too little too late when voters have already been deterred from voting freely."

'Electoral Court is the people’s court'

Mashinini said that it is not only the responsibility of the criminal justice system and the Electoral Court to take action against alleged perpetrators.

"Political parties have an obligation to prevent breaches and where necessary – be seen to take swift action against any of their own members who are guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct and any other election regulations."

Speaking at the briefing, Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, chairperson of the Electoral Court, said anyone who alleged that some type of fraud of unfair interference with the voting process had occurred should approach the Electoral Court.

"The Electoral Court is the people’s court. If you want to make any allegations, approach the court directly, because you can if it relates to election matters."

On March 5-6, approximately 22 500 voting stations will be open across the country to allow people to register.

Read more on:    iec  |  local elections 2016

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