The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) went beyond its legal mandate when it decided to reject the application for registration of former mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba’s newly formed political party ActionSA.
This was according to the party’s national chairperson Michael Beaumont who, on Tuesday morning, told City Press that “we are definitely going to be challenging this decision”.
“The IEC is only able to admit or reject the application of a political party based on two things. The first being similarity with another organisation, and the second is in respect of a political party that invokes violence or exercises hate speech and such things,” he said.
According to Beaumont, the IEC indicated its decision to reject the party’s application in a letter sent to it yesterday [Monday].
“In the letter, the IEC indicated that they had done so based on two grounds, the first is that they deem our identifying marks – our logo and our name – as being too similar to that of an existing political party and they deem that this would cause confusion to voters during an election period,” Beaumont told City Press.
“The second reason is the use of the South African flag in our logo in respect of legislation in the Heraldry Act.”
The Heraldry Act of 1962 established a bureau for the registration of coats of arms, uniforms, badges, flags and other such emblems. It falls under the authority of the minister of trade and industry, but the bureau and its register are managed by the state herald.
The chairperson went on to explain that: “We advance in both instances that the application of the law by the IEC is incorrect and inconsistent because the similarities between us and this political party, called The Party of Action, are nowhere near rising to the point where it could cause confusion with voters, as they are very different in terms of their identifying features.”
“There are 632 political parties that are at various stages of registration in South Africa, so to believe that there wouldn’t be any degree of similarity is absurd.”
He went on to lament that the IEC was being “inconsistent because it allowed the registration of the African Independent Congress which is widely accepted to have caused a great deal of confusion with ANC voters in the past and there was no issue taken with that.”
Beaumont told City Press: “Our legal team has already engaged with the IEC to inform them that we will be exercising the internal appeal process which we have the right to do.
“We are confident that, in that internal appeal, the IEC will come around to the fact that what they have done is incorrect and that our registration will be allowed, failing which we will approach the courts of our country, because participating in the electoral process is a constitutional matter. It is not something that can be deprived in an arbitrary manner.”
He added that this would have no impact on the party’s plans to contest the 2021 elections.
ActionSA founder Mashaba told City Press: “It is just a ridiculous nuisance factor. But we will deal with it.”
He also took to Twitter on the same morning to express his disappointment at the decision taken by the IEC. “Disappointed but not surprised. The IEC has applied the law incorrectly. This won’t stop us. We will defend our identity without hesitation.”
In a statement released by the IEC on Tuesday morning, the electoral commission, confirmed that it had "written to ActionSA informing the party that its application to be registered as a political party had been rejected".
"ActionSA was informed yesterday, writing of the failure of its application based on the similarity of its symbol or distinguishing mark to that of another party already registered as well as the fact that the logo includes the South African national flag,"read the statement.
According to the IEC, an existing party, Party of Action. "objected to the application of ActionSA on the basis that the proposed logo was "too similar" to its own."
"Given that the national flag has been registered under the Heraldry act 18, no organisation, or institution including a political party may use the flag or portion of the flag to form part of its emblem," the electoral commissiion wrote.
According to the IEC, the letter sent to the party, informed ActionSA that it had the options "to either amend its symbol and publish a fresh notice of application or to appeal to the commission against the decision of the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days."
Mashaba launched his party late last month. This after he resigned as mayor of Johannesburg and left the DA last year.