Fears ‘regional ballot’ option will cause confusion and delays among voters on polling day

Fears of rigging, errors and cheating are growing among political parties and analysts. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG

Fears of rigging, errors and cheating are growing among political parties and analysts. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG

Published Apr 4, 2024


As the upcoming General Elections draw closer, fears of rigging, errors and cheating are growing among political parties and analysts.

Earlier this year, former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule warned that there won’t be any “vote rigging” now that he would be contesting the upcoming elections under the banner of his own party, the African Congress for Transformation (ACT).

Magashule had raised questions over the credibility of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).

He alluded to there having been a history of vote rigging in South Africa.

“We are going to win elections, we’re very confident. There is not going to be any rigging of elections. Our eyes are open because we know. I’ve been part of the ANC, we know what’s going to happen," Magashule said at the time.

Former president Jacob Zuma, who is the leader of MK Party, also questioned the secrecy that was surrounding the voting process. He said it showed that there was something untoward with regard to the system, especially where the counting was been done behind closed doors.

“What are they hiding from those (who) have voted? These are the things that make those that have won to be declared losers. That is fraud. The current system was a far cry from what he and other freedom fighters fought for.

“I did not fight for freedom only for my vote to become a subject of extreme secrecy. What is being hidden so much?”

The concerns grew when the IEC introduced the new ballot in the form of regional ballot.

Speaking to The Star on Thursday, independent election analyst Michael Atkins said the introduction of the regional ballot would cause confusion for voters, adding that the IEC's explanation on its introduction was poor.

“The three ballots comes from having independents contesting national elections. If they were just added to the original national ballot, that could have got long, and a very successful candidate could have skewed the results (let's say getting 1 million votes but taking only one seat).

“Basically, both the PR and the regional ballots (added together) count for all 400 seats (less than any won by independents). From the voters’ perspective, there are not two sets of 200 seats. The Electoral Act uses that language, but it refers to internal arrangements with parties and their lists,” Atkins said.

He further alluded that the extra ballot could cause some delays in voting and also in counting of ballots.

Atkins said he would be surprised if the results were announced on the Saturday evening after the election.

He said this created a possibility of small errors in tallying or capturing of the results.

On the question of the commission employing personnel who were affiliated to the contesting organisation, Atkins said the question of employing the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), by the IEC had been raised for many years.

“Before judging the matter, it is necessary to know exactly what percentage of temporary staff are COSATU members, and whether there had been any actual bias in selection. In general, teachers are fairly well qualified to act as counting officers – this practice happened even before 1994.”

On the uMkhonto weSizwe Party’s appeal over its leader being barred from Parliament, Atkins said he believed the grounds given by the party were not strong enough to reverse the IEC’s decision.

“For example, they say that he did not have a criminal conviction. But section 47(1)(e) simply says, ‘convicted of an offence’, and not convicted of a criminal offence. They say that standing as a candidate for the National Assembly, and being a member of the National Assembly are different things – but section 27(2)(b) of the Electoral Act says that each candidate must be eligible to stand for election in terms of the Constitution.

“By referring to the Constitution, the section 47 rule is clearly (the one) being referred to. The Constitution also clearly refers to the sentencing, and not to the effective time served. The remission does not change the sentence.“

The commission's decision was influenced by Zuma’s conviction and sentencing of 15 months after he was found guilty of defying a summons to appear before the State Capture Commission in 2021.

Zuma served a few months at the Estcourt Correctional Services, and after spending some time in 1 Military Hospital, he was released on parole and subsequently received a presidential pardon after the parole was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

He went back to the same Correctional Services centre just for his remission to be processed in August last year.