Free State prejudiced other parties during 2011 elections – Madonsela

2016-05-05 19:30
(Mpho Raborife, News24)

(Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Pretoria – The Free State government prejudiced other political parties and candidates during the 2011 elections, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday.

She told reporters in Pretoria that the province – led by Premier Ace Magashule – had undermined the element of fair play in the electoral process at the time. She found Magashule had acted inconsistently with the Electoral Act, the Constitution as well as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Government.

Madonsela released two reports following investigations into the conflation between party and state in 2011 as well as the irregular distribution of food parcels by the ANC Youth League through the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) in 2009.

The Congress of the People as well as other concerned citizens lodged complaints with the Office of the Public Protector alleging Magashule used a provincial government initiative to endorse the ANC's electoral campaign. The complainants alleged the provincial government had misused state funds and asked the public protector to investigate.

During the investigations, Madonsela found there were two initiatives using the word "Hlasela" in their branding.

"Evidence reveals that at the time the complaint arose, there were two Hlasela initiatives, one called Operation Hlasela, an official state funded service delivery accelerating vehicle of the Free State government, driven by the Premier, and a private Hlasela Fund funded by private individuals, including civil servants and civil society entities, to support the state Hlasela initiative," Madonsela said.

Endorsed ANC

But it appeared the state's initiative was used to endorse the ANC during elections and highlight the good work that it was doing.

The private initiative had openly endorsed the ANC's electoral campaign and had a black, green and yellow coloured truck driving around during elections with the words "Vote ANC" and "Hlasela" branded on it next to pictures of Magashule and President Jacob Zuma.

In her report, Madonsela said government platforms should not be used to endorse any political party. And, she added, the government had created confusion in the public by not making a clear differentiation between the two initiatives.

She quoted Magashule and an ANC leader in the province as an example to prove her point.

In March 2001, while addressing a mass prayer meeting at a ZCC church, Magashule said: "We launched Operation Hlasela shortly after we took office in 2009 to fast-track service delivery."

He then said: "Operation Hlasela is the concrete manifestation that this ANC-led government is truly a caring government which responds faster to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in society."

'A government programme'

A month before that, the ANC's provincial secretary at the time, Sibongile Besani, wrote in an ANC statement: "Operation Hlasela is a government programme that has embraced the ANC 2009 manifesto... Operation Hlasela articulates our manifesto in the best way understood and [is] accepted by Free Staters."

During a meeting with Magashule in October 2011 Madonsela said she had raised this and that he had conceded that both initiatives had the same logos and colours which resulted in confusion.

Magashule then accepted that this was improper and took Madonsela's advice to change the name of the private programme, which was then changed to "Friends of the Free State", she said.

However, when her office served Magashule with a notice in April 2016 advising him of evidence implicating him as the premier regarding his conduct in relation to Operation Hlasela, Magashule denied any wrongdoing, Madonsela said.

He argued that government had the right to use whatever means it could to expedite service delivery, which she said was a valid point. But it was naive of Magashule to think that the ANC had legitimately benefited from the other initiative's branding.

State communications used

Madonsela found that although there was no conclusive evidence to prove state funds were used for the private initiative, state platforms and communications resources were utilised to advertise the state initiative, without distinguishing between the two.

She said this had undermined the element of fair play in the Electoral Act, sections of the Constitution as well as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

She found other political parties and independent candidates were prejudiced as a result and recommended that a policy be developed and circulated in all government institutions in the province, setting a clear separation between party and state activities.

Madonsela also recommended a policy be developed that no government or state functionary could use its power, resources or position to market political party matters.

Read more on:    anc  |  thuli madonsela  |  elections

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