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President Cyril Ramaphosa believes there is nothing sinister about the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) approaching the Constitutional Court to appeal against the Electoral Court order that effectively gave the green light to former president Jacob Zuma’s election run.

Last week the Electoral Court dismissed the IEC’s decision to bar Zuma from contesting for the National Assembly because he was sentenced to a 15-month prison term without the option of a fine. The commission was labelled “compromised” by Zuma’s MK Party for challenging the order.

Speaking to the media while on the campaign trail at the weekend, Ramaphosa said the commission should be defended during the legal showdown.

“We have been very proud of the work done by the IEC over the years, including now. The IEC is able to consider matters very carefully. With this case I do believe they have done precisely that. No individual of the IEC should be pointed out to have done this and that. It is the entire IEC that has taken the decision. The decision [appeal] is based on bringing clarity to the law. The Constitutional Court could give clarity once and for all,” he said. 

Ramaphosa said the commission must be given the opportunity to seek clarity at courts without scrutiny.

“I do not buy this notion that the IEC is venturing into politics. The IEC is inherently non-political and independent — and we must defend its independence, just as we should defend the independence of our courts.” 

MK party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said the commission’s decision to initiate the appeal “compromised electoral integrity and independence”. 

“This action, pursued without awaiting the detailed reasons from the electoral court, signifies a rushed and potentially influenced judgment, underscoring a worrying disregard for due process and allowance of political pressure by the IEC from external forces, some of them outside SA,” Ndhlela said. 

The party accused the commission and commissioner Janet Love of being biased.

“It is clear to the MK party that under the leadership of Ms Love, the IEC ventured into the political arena, aligning itself with particular political interests rather than upholding its mandate to ensure an unbiased electoral process. This obvious conclusion has unfortunately eroded the MK party’s confidence in the IEC’s ability to conduct free and fair elections, which is paramount for the stability of this country,” Ndhlela said.

Announcing the appeal, IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said it was to seek clarity.

“The commission believes there is substantial public interest in providing certainty on the proper interpretation of section 47(1)(e) and its interplay with the powers of the commission to adjudicate objections to candidates. Such clarity is important in the present matter because of a live issue but also for future elections,” Bapela said.

“It is furthermore important that such legal clarification is obtained from the highest court in the land which has constitutional matter jurisdiction. Hence a direct appeal to the Constitutional Court. 

“The commission wishes to emphasise this appeal is not intended to involve itself in the political field of play. It is rather to ensure free and fair elections by ensuring applicable constitutional provisions relating to elections are clearly understood by all role players and applied evenly.” 


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