The Committee was briefed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the preparations for the 2011 Municipal Elections. The presentation covered the key amendments to the Municipal Electoral Act, which notably included the streamlining of the candidate nomination process and the introduction of special votes. The presentation outlined the results of the demarcation process that was submitted by the Municipal Demarcation Board to the Commission in September 2010. The IEC covered the voter registration results and the successes of the Targeted Communication and Registration program, specifically the activities of the voter registration weekend of 5 and 6 February 2011. The IEC then turned to proposed amendments to political party registration and participation regulations. The final part of the presentation covered selection criteria and training of election staff for Presiding Officers and Deputy Presiding Officers.
Members questioned if new polling stations would be opened in place of those closed due to flooding and how many were unable to open, how cases were dealt with where citizens showed up to vote and were not listed or listed as deceased. Members asked about the verification process regarding selection criteria for Presiding and Deputy Presiding Officers. Members expressed concern about the low turnout for voter registration in some provinces and asked what contributed to this situation, including why there seemed to be little publicity surrounding the events of the recent registration weekend. In regards to special votes, members asked if certain groups, such as IEC workers and students, would be eligible for special votes and also if there would be a second registration weekend.
Members questioned the demarcation process and asked why the IEC did not participate. Further, would someone have to re-register who had changed voting district but was still in the same ward? Lastly, members stated that there needed to be a communication strategy in place to inform people of new and changed voting districts and voting districts need to be placed in more permanent and safe locations.
Briefing by the Independent Electoral Commission
Ms Pansy Tlakula, Chief Electoral Officer, Independent Electoral Commission, provided a presentation on the preparations for the 2011 Municipal Elections.
Ms Tlakula reviewed the key amendments of the Municipal Electoral Amendment Act of 2010. She noted that the amendments streamlined the candidate nomination process in order to give both a contesting candidate and a political party time to correct minor deficiencies. Another important amendment was Section 55 which introduced special votes for the first time in local government elections. Ms Tlakula stated that any voter who was unable on voting day to cast his or her vote at the voting station in the voting district where he or she was registered may, in the prescribed manner, apply and be allowed prior to voting day to cast a special vote within that voting district. She stated that the IEC was still working out the modalities of special votes. The intention of the IEC was to have two kinds of special votes. The first category of special votes would be available to people who would not be able to come to the voting station on voting day. They could vote at the voting station a day or two before the actual election date. The second category was home visits. This included people that were elderly, infirm or disabled. These people could apply for a special vote. They did not have to apply in person. Once the application was approved, the IEC would visit them at home to enable them to cast their special vote.
Ms Tlakula then discussed Demarcation. She noted that the IEC did not demarcate ward boundaries and that demarcation was done by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB). The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) submitted the final set of wards to the Commission in September 2010. This submission outlined that there were 234 Municipalities of which 8 were Metropolitan Councils (Metros). This figure included the two new metros that were established (see presentation document). There were 44 District Councils and the number of wards had increased by 10% to 4 277.
Ms Tlakula explained that, resulting from the demarcation process, the IEC was required to align the voting districts with the new ward boundaries, as voting districts (VDs) could not straddle ward boundaries. This process resulted in an increase in voting districts by 6% from 19 726 in 2009 to 20 867. All political parties that sit on the Party Liaison Committees (PLCs) were consulted on these new districts.
Ms Tlakula then turned to voter registration, stating that before the registration weekend of 5 and 6 February 2011, there were 22 667 345 voters on the voters’ roll. The IEC was committed to increasing this number by 1.5 million, and this was the reason that the IEC opened the voting stations on this past weekend. Ms Tlakula then presented slides which outlined the growth of the voters’ roll since it was established in 1999.
Ms Tlakula explained that following the demarcation of ward boundaries, the IEC embarked on Targeted Communication and Registration to ensure that people were correctly registered in the proper wards because they had to be registered and vote in the area in which they live. This Targeted Registration program yielded approximately 195 000 new registrations (see document for details).
Ms Tlakula noted that there were facilities available for people to verify their registration details, or to check where they must register.
Ms Tlakula explained the results of the voter registration for the weekend of 5 and 6 February 2011. She noted that by 8 February 2011, over 90% of voting districts had reported. She commended the hard work of the staff who worked at the VDs. She noted the increase in new registrations and re-registrations was 1 144 615 persons. Some voting stations in the Northern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Limpopo could not open as a result of flooding. Special arrangements would be made to accommodate these voters and to offer them registration opportunities. In an upcoming press conference there would be an announcement as to whether or not there would be a second registration weekend.
Ms Tlakula presented a slide that showed all of the information technology systems that were in use by the IEC. She then presented details on the launch of the Election Awareness Campaign of 12 January with the logo of "Love your South Africa". Consultative meetings with Chapter 9 institutions would be taking place in the near future and there would also be a summit on 3 March 2011 entitled Promote Political Tolerance.
Ms Tlakula turned to civic and voter education. She noted that civic education had started very slowly and especially for balloting education as local elections could be very complex. In regards to political parties, Ms Tlakula noted that there were currently 150 registered political parties, and that number was growing. The IEC had proposed major amendments to the regulations regarding political party registration. Specifically, the number of signatures of registered voters required for registration of a political party was increased from 50 to 100. Also, the deposit payable for contesting an election would also increase for contesting elections unless contesting as an independent candidate.
Ms Tlakula explained the candidate nomination process would take place once the election date was announced and voter registration rolls were certified. She presented a slide that outlined the candidate statistics since 2006 including a breakdown by gender and youth participation (between the ages of 18 and 35). Ms Tlakula noted that 60 000 officials had been trained and employed as Presiding and Deputy Presiding Officers. The IEC had established criteria for being appointed as a Presiding and Deputy Presiding Officer. The IEC expected to employ approximately 200 000 people who would be properly trained in advance of voting day.
Ms Tlakula closed her presentation with voter turnout statistics for National, Provincial and Municipal elections since 1994.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Tlakula for her presentation and invited members of the committee to share their experiences of the previous weekend with the IEC.
Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked how the IEC could assist in cases where voters turn up at polling stations but find out that they had been removed from the voter roll as a deceased person. She noted that Ms Tlakula stated that some polling stations could not be opened due to weather or landscape and she asked if any of the proposed new polling stations that were to be opened would be impacted by similar reasons. In regards to the criteria for appointing Presiding and Deputy Presiding Officers, how did the IEC verify that these people had not been politically active?
Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) expressed her disappointment with the performance of the province of Gauteng. She was pleased with the amendments to the Act. She would like the IEC to advocate for workers who could not get the time off work to vote or register to vote. There needed to be a communication strategy in place that notified people of changes to existing or establishment of new voting districts. In regards to the placement of some mobile voting stations, they were located next to busy streets which may not be safe for people. Lastly Ms Mncube relayed a complaint that IEC officials were not well versed in the legislation that allowed people to be citizens of South Africa. Specifically, naturalized citizens were turned away from voting stations because the officials were not looking closely at individual documentation.
The Chairperson asked what contributed to the disappointing outcome in voter registration in Gauteng and Mpumalanga and what measures had been put in place to improve this.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) suggested that the IEC should use other venues besides tents, as there had been situations where tents had blown away. He asked what program the IEC had in order to pass on information about special votes and inform voters what they must do to register for this. He also asked that IEC workers, who may be working away from their place of registration, be given the necessary information to properly register beforehand.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) suggested that railway containers or something similar should be used in place of tents to protect papers, given the potential for wind and rain damage. He asked if there was going to be a second registration on 5 and 6 March. Lastly, in cases where the Demarcation Board had changed wards and people were in the same ward but they had to go to a new location to vote, would these people have to re-register at the new voting district even though they were in the same ward?
A member of the committee representing the Eastern Cape asked how 'area managers' were employed, as this individual was unavailable in all of the stations where he was needed. In regards to special votes, she asked if any assistance would be given recruits in police colleges who could not register this past weekend, to register to vote. She asked if there were plans in place for security during the elections. She also asked what young, unemployed people must do to be employed by the IEC, as the perception was that IEC employees were already working as teachers or working in the municipality.
Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the IEC could provide the number of voting stations, by province, that were not able to open last weekend. Also could the IEC provide information on the situation in the farming areas?
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) asked if special registration would go along with special votes, and if special registration was conducted, how many applications were received last weekend. He asked why there was little publicity this weekend. He asked why the IEC did not participate in the demarcation process as it often disadvantaged voters. Was the IEC looking for permanent facilities as voting stations?
Ms Boroto asked what the plans were for students who were studying in areas other than their residential area on voting day.
The Chairperson asked if the IEC could provide the names of the new parties that had registered for these elections. She also asked for the number if independent people registered.
Ms Tlakula replied that the number of independent candidates would not be known until the IEC conducted candidate nominations; they did not register independents just political parties. She did not have the names of the new political parties at hand.
In regards to removing deceased people from the rolls, Ms Tlakula stated that they relied on the Population Register from the Department of Home Affairs and the IEC compared the Voters’ Roll against the Population Register. If a person was listed as dead on the Population Register then that person was removed from the Voters Roll. However, if someone who was declared dead by mistake showed up at the voting station, the IEC informed Home Affairs to correct the Population Register. Unfortunately, these people would not be allowed to vote, as one's status would have to be corrected first.
Ms Tlakula stated that there were existing voting stations in areas that were flooded. However, these voting stations could not be opened because they were inaccessible. There was no plan to create new voting stations; the existing stations would be opened at a date to be communicated in the near future.
She addressed the criteria for appointing Presiding and Deputy Presiding Officers and their political activism, explaining that after appointees were named, these lists were taken to Municipal Party Liaison Committees (PLC) and asked for objections. The IEC then investigated any objections that were raised by the PLCs. If there was merit in the objections, the IEC removed the candidate from the list.
Ms Tlakula explained that voter turnout in Gauteng and Mpumalanga was traditionally low. There was a need to step up the communications campaign and public awareness to increase the numbers.
In regards to retail store workers, the IEC met with business organisations to request that they commit to allowing workers time to register and vote. Similar efforts were taken with farm workers and the IEC had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the farming community to allow workers time off to register and vote.
Ms Tlakula stated that she would look further into the points regarding communications strategy when VDs were moved to new locations and also the safe locations of mobile VDs.
Ms Tlakula noted that with respect to being informed about naturalized citizens, unfortunately it could not be assumed that all IEC employees would work as they had been trained.
The IEC would make an announcement in the near future whether or not they would open on 5 and 6 March.
She agreed that tents used as voting stations were a big problem. Tent prices were inflated, tents were blown away and occasionally stolen. Other options in place of tents were dependent on the costs.
Ms Tlakula stated that the communication of information on special votes would be made following the announcement of the election date. Presiding Officers who were not staying where they work would have to apply for special votes.
Ms Tlakula explained that if a person was in the same ward but in a different VD, the IEC recommended that the person re-register in the new VD. For people such as SAPS students, they would have to register where they were or where they would be on voting day.
In regards to security, the IEC was briefed daily and the issue was covered. For registration, they used Presiding Officers and Deputy Presiding Officers who were inevitably teachers. This was for two reasons. First, if a school was used, they prefer to have a person who had access to that school. The second reason was to retain the skill. The IEC tried to use the same people because they had the experience. She reiterated that teachers make up only 27% of people that were used in these roles.
Ms Tlakula explained that the IEC worked with the Demarcation Board to ensure that the Board did not unnecessarily split voting districts, but unfortunately it did happen.
On the use of temporary stations instead of buildings, she said that in some voting districts there was no infrastructure to use.
Ms Mncube asked if retail workers could be allowed application for special votes in order to avoid the many problems that these workers faced in registering and voting.
Ms Tlakula replied that this was a difficult situation and this required a collective effort with the unions to assist. She reiterated that any person who was not available on voting day may apply for special votes.
The Chairperson thanked the members of the committee for their insightful comments they had made and questions they had posed on the presentation that was made. She thanked Ms Tlakula for the information presented.
The meeting was adjourned.
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