While the majority of the political parties contesting the local government elections on November 1 were represented at the signing of the electoral code of conduct, the EFF failed to send a representative to Nasrec centre on Friday.
But the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said the party’s absence means nothing because by submitting its list of candidates, it has agreed to abide by the IEC’s regulations.
IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said Friday’s signing was merely a public pledge: “The EFF’s absence is of no consequence because they have already signed the pledge.”
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini promised that the IEC will deliver quality local government elections.
“Even under the difficult circumstances brought on by Covid-19, the commission is ready to deliver the 2021 local government elections with unwavering consistency and commitment to South Africa’s democracy,” he said.
Mamabolo said that, despite the nation’s battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, the IEC remained hard at work to ensure that the upcoming local government elections are delivered safely, in fulfilment of its constitutional mandate.
“This ceremony today is as important as democracy itself, of which credible elections are an irrefutable ingredient. Today is important because 15 leaders of parties represented in the national party liaison committee [NPLC] stand before the nation and publicly pledge to abide by the electoral code of conduct,” he said.
He said the code provides the parameters of conduct that are consistent with the vision of the country’s democratic forebears, who conceptualised a democratic society that was at peace with itself and its constituent elements.
DA leader John Steenhuisen questioned the EFF’s absence, arguing that its commitment to upholding the electoral code of conduct leaves much to be desired.
“This is a good indicator that they don’t really care about this important event. Just like they didn’t really care about political funding regulations; just like they really didn’t care about the lockdown restrictions at their manifesto launch,” referring to allegations that many people who attended the EFF’s manifesto launch were not wearing face masks.
He said his party took the signing of the code of conduct very seriously, which is why its representatives were present to sign the public pledge. He added that the IEC needed to police parties’ conduct.
“But its own conduct also needs policing, to ensure it is the independent institution it must be for elections to be free and fair,” he said.
Steenhuisen said there needs to be one set of rules for all parties.
“If the IEC favours some political parties over others by allowing them to break these rules, then the IEC is failing in its fundamental role to ensure free and fair elections. And indeed, some parties are breaking the rules and appear to be getting away with it.’’
He criticised the ANC and EFF’s manifesto launches, saying they breached lockdown regulations, which at the time limited outdoor gatherings to 500 people.
“Their willingness to break the law puts law-abiding parties such as the DA at a distinct disadvantage. What action is the IEC taking to protect the fairness of this election in this regard?” he asked.
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said: “We are fully committed to the pledge because it is a great part of the election. We hope the IEC as the custodian makes sure that every political party plays according to the rules.”
He believes that all political parties that signed the pledge would honour it. Hlabisa said those political parties that deviated from the code must be punished by both the IEC and voters.