IEC’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
IEC’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) has established the physical addresses of  89% of voters, making progress with the requirements of a Constitutional Court ruling on the voters' roll, the commission’s chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo told MPs on Monday.

The voters’ roll determines who votes in SA’s elections, and the IEC was taken to task by the Constitutional Court in 2016 for not carrying voter addresses on the roll. The complete voters’ roll is important to the 2021 local government election, in particular to ensure the integrity of the process. 

Mamabolo said in a briefing to parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee that the IEC had so far finalised 23.4-million complete addresses of voters on the voters’ roll for the local government elections — 89% of the total — compared with the 8.6-million completed in 2016. What was required now was to locate the 23.4-million addresses in a particular ward.

Mamabolo noted that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 37 by-elections have not been able to be held and the IEC has approached the Electoral Court for them to be postponed for 120 days. In terms of the law, by-elections have to take place within 90 days of a ward councillor’s position becoming vacant.

The process of preparing for next year’s local government elections has also been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Municipal Demarcation Board has announced that it has had to to call a halt to public consultations over the determination of municipal ward boundaries. It has only been able to complete four of the nine provinces and will not be able to complete the work by the August deadline for submission of the final wards to the IEC, Mamabolo said.

This would have an effect on when the elections will take place.

He said the IEC would consult with co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma on the implications of this delay on the electoral process next year.

The board has decided not to review the outer boundaries of municipalities ahead of next year’s elections.

Mamabolo told MPs that the IEC had completed the process of drafting regulations under the Political Party Funding Act which was enacted in January 2019. This provides for the disclosure of private donations to political parties over R100,000, establishes a multiparty democracy fund for donors who want to support a range of political parties, and requires political parties to keep certain records of account.

The act requires the IEC to establish a separate unit to co-ordinate and monitor the specified private donations received by any political party, and Mamabolo said this process was under way with staff being recruited. The IEC was allocated additional funding of R50m in 2019/2020 to cover the establishment costs of the new unit in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021. Of this, about R38m will be rolled over to fund the unit in 2020/2021.

Mamabolo said the IEC awaited the outcome of the Constitutional Court case — brought by the New National Movement and heard in August last year — which challenged the Electoral Act regarding the right of independent candidates to stand for national and provincial elections. Judgment was reserved and was awaited with “bated breath” he said, as it might require revisions to the electoral system.

He emphasised the need for the IEC to come up with strategies to get the public to vote. It was a concern that voter turnout had declined from 89.3% of the total voting population in 1999 to 65.34% in 2019. There had, however, been stability in voter turnout in local government elections.

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