IEC braces for challenges as registration starts

2018-02-11 05:49
(IEC)

(IEC)

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The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) faces an uphill battle to collect outstanding addresses from 2.8 million voters in a race against time to meet the June deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

Deputy chief executive Nomsa Masuku told City Press this week that, despite the mammoth task, she was encouraged that the number of outstanding addresses had shrunk from an initial 16 million.

As the deadline looms, Masuku urged more South Africans to verify their addresses on the electoral body’s website or to visit their voting stations during the two-day registration drive on March 1 and 2. The initiative is set to cost the commission R370m. New voters are also encouraged to use this time to register.

Service providers will also come on board to ensure their customers have free internet access on their cellphones, and the commission will announce details of this once plans have been finalised. Telkom and Vodacom are already on board.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has given the IEC 18 months to fix “unlawful defects” on the voters’ roll, which he said were “inconsistent with the rule of law”.

Masuku said residents in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal were the main culprits who were lagging behind with verifying their addresses.

“We have to fight harder in Gauteng to get people on the voters’ roll,” said Masuku, adding that many people were reluctant to provide information.

For example, in the Johannesburg city centre, many people are living in illegal buildings and were reluctant to give electoral officers their details.

“In the city, we have the least number of addresses, and part of the reason is because we have high volumes of people literally living on top of each other and they don’t necessarily want to be found. Those people in condemned buildings don’t want to let us in. We struggle in terms of persuading them to come out and give us an address.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, there is a similar problem, where people are worried the exercise by the IEC could be more than just one of collecting addresses for the voters’ roll.

Masuku said it was crucial for those in rural areas with no formal addresses or for those who don’t even have roof over their heads to give the IEC a landmark close to where they were located to ensure the IEC complied with the court order.

Meanwhile, Masuku said she expected that the commission may be subject to more litigation as political battles heat up as the election day next year gets closer.

While Mogoeng ordered the IEC to get addresses, she believed that opposition parties could go further to object to certain addresses that had been provided. A worst-case scenario would be that someone could be barred from voting because they didn’t have a valid address.

She said the courts would have to be the final arbiter should something like that need to be taken up.

“We are not required by law to verify addresses. Unlike banks, we just need to make sure you are on the roll, have an address and vote,” she said.

Masuku has threatened to resign if anyone is barred from voting because they don’t have an address.

“I want to tell you that the day the IEC removes someone from the voters’ roll because they do not have an address, that is the day I’m going to stop working for the electoral commission,” she said.

“My job is to ensure that people are able to express their will about who governs them.”

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