The biggest loser in Wednesday’s election was an institution, not a party or any leader: the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC). Heedless of 25 years’ experience, it contrived to combine, in the words of Helen Zille, incompetence with “ineffable smugness”: double voting due to indelible ink that wasn’t; voting stations that were meant to open but didn’t or ran out of ballots; spoilt votes rendered thus not because of voter illiteracy but because the paper was unstamped. The bill of indictment is almost as long as the outsize ballots confronting voters across SA last week. This “mendacity of mediocrity” — in the arch phrase of Peter Gomes, the late Harvard professor of Christian morals — has become the institutional norm in Zumafied SA. We accept the unacceptable, nod our heads at the lack of consequences for our malfunctioning government, and are complicit in steady decline. By offering congratulations, and institutional deference to those who should be sent packing, we pave the path ...

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