IEC in Treasury talks

The numbers game: A technician prepares a results board at the Electoral Commission of SA headquarters in Pretoria ahead of an election in this file picture. Picture: REUTERS
The numbers game: A technician prepares a results board at the Electoral Commission of SA headquarters in Pretoria ahead of an election in this file picture. Picture: REUTERS
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) says that it needs R300m to clean up the voters roll in compliance with a landmark Constitutional Court judgment in preparation for the 2019 general election, writes Khulekani Magubane.

The IEC has started approaching municipalities in a bid to verify the physical addresses of all registered voters in the country.

A free, fair and credible 2019 election is crucial in light of the ANC’s continued electoral slide and the expectation that the next general election is bound to yield a coalition government.

The IEC was given a dressing down by the Constitutional Court for its failure to ensure that there was a clean voters roll in the 2013 Tlokwe by-elections, the results of which were successfully challenged by independent candidates.

In addition to the voters roll issue, the IEC remains without a chief electoral officer after Mosotho Moepya’s contract lapsed earlier in 2017.

The Constitutional Court gave the IEC until June 2018 to ensure that the national voters roll was up to date, complete and accurate.

To achieve this end, the IEC has also embarked on a geocoding campaign to ensure that all registered voters are accounted for ahead of 2019.

IEC spokeswoman Kate Bapela said: “[It] being a non-election year, the budget for the current financial year does not include specific allocations for any mass voter registration or address-gathering activities since these were not envisaged during the original planning and budgeting cycle.”

The IEC receives funding from the fiscus through parliamentary allocations.

As with all such allocations, the budget process involves engagement with the Treasury and the budget vote in Parliament based on submission of multiyear plans, she said.

Bapela did not deny that the IEC had a R300m gap in funding needs, but said the electoral authority was speaking to the Treasury about the funding implications of the Constitutional Court and ensuring the commission was compliant.

“The budget process does allow for entities including the electoral commission to approach National Treasury for additional funding if and when required due to unforeseen or changing circumstances.”

She said that “the electoral commission has finalised the procurement process to appoint a service provider to assist with the recruitment of a new chief electoral officer”.

Lemias Mashile, chairman of the portfolio committee on home affairs, said a number of households being verified as part of the roll-cleaning process could not have addresses because of the “moving target” when it came to capturing informal settlements.

“The committee is satisfied that the IEC has capacity to do that work. However, there are two things they cannot deal with, and need additional funding to do that work.

“They will never get physical addresses for everyone at any given time, because of a portion of society that stays in shacks,” said Mashile.

But he was not concerned about a leadership vacuum at the IEC since Moepya’s deputy, Sy Mamabolo, had taken up his duties in the interim.

“They have a deputy chair, who is in charge and surely nothing should be problematic in that regard for now.”

DA MP Haniff Hoosen, who also sits on the home affairs committee, said: “The last report we got from the IEC in Parliament is that they got a geocode from properties. If I am not mistaken, we are getting an update from them next week.

“For us, what is important is that the principles of the Constitutional Court judgment must be adhered to. Candidates must be able to locate and engage with voters.”

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