The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefed the Committee on the country’s state of readiness in preparation for the next elections to be held in 2019.
The Commission indicated that the consultations with the President and premiers was yet to be undertaken to discuss the issues related to the national and provincial elections to be held between 8 May and 7 August 2019. The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill was currently under consideration, which would provide for the electronic registration of political parties and electronic submission of party candidate lists. The Bill would remove restrictions from registration by mental health patients and voters with mental disabilities, and also looked at expanding the potential venues for overseas voting. There was also a plan to establish a voting procedure for voters without an address. There were 18 million registered voters with complete addresses. This was a huge improvement, considering that the figure had been only 8.6 million in 2016. The IEC was currently reviewing the regulations for deposits by political parties. All provinces would employ both municipal outreach coordinators and democracy education facilitators. The Political Party Funding Bill was currently before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and would then be submitted to the President for proclamation.
Members wanted to know if there would be any quality control measures in place to ensure that the coordinators and facilitators adopted a non-partisan approach in their work. It was good to hear that the IEC was still thinking about the procedure to be followed by those households without addresses, especially people in informal settlements and rural areas. However, the various organisations and government departments that the IEC was looking to collaborate with -- like Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the Department of Social Development and the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) -- all had their offices in towns and cities, which therefore excluded the rural areas. They said there were often cases where police officers would turn away people who were wearing political regalia at voting stations, which was totally unacceptable, and SAPS members should be trained properly on the “dos and don’ts.” Were any measures in place to ensure that foreign nationals were not being allowed to vote, as this was another concern in some areas.
The National Development Agency (NDA) reported on their Annual Performance Plan (APP) for the 2018/19 financial year in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Social Development. It planned to ensure the approval of the integrated human resource management and development system. It was aiming to increase the number of civil society organisations (CSOs) that had access to development interventions aimed at developing their capabilities to efficiently manage, mobilise resources and become sustainable.
Members said that there were complaints that the entity was inaccessible in rural and poor areas, and this was a major concern. The purpose of the NDA was to help poor people, especially those located in rural areas and informal settlements. What measures were in place to ensure that this was prioritised? It was difficult to see the real impact of the entity on poor people. The programmes in place were essential, but they could not be achieved without the assistance of the Department of Social Development. The NDA should try to communicate more with people on the ground so that they were aware of this very important organisation.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefing
Mr Granville Abrahams, Senior Manager: Electoral Matters, IEC, said that the current five year term of the National Assembly and all 9 provincial legislatures ended on 8 May 2019, and the national and provincial elections (NPEs) would be held between 8 May and 7 August 2019. The consultation between the President and the premiers was yet to be undertaken on this. The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill to provide for the electronic registration of political parties and electronic submission of party candidate lists was currently under consideration. The Bill would remove restrictions from registration by mental health patients and voters with mental disabilities (section 8 of Electoral Act). The Bill was also looking at expanding the potential venues for overseas voting. There was also a plan to establish a voting procedure for voters without addresses. Of the 490 520 new registrations during the 10-11 March weekend, 228 450 (46.6%) were in the 20 to 29 age group, and 134 980 (27.5%) were aged 19 or 20.
On 14 June 2016, the Constitutional Court had directed that the EIC must by 30 June 2018 have obtained and recorded on the national common voters’ roll all addresses of voters that were reasonably available as at 17 December 2003. The Court had also directed the IEC to obtain and record all available addresses on the voters’ roll for the relevant ward segments of the voters’ roll for purposes of municipal by-elections. There were 18 million registered voters with complete addresses, and this was a huge improvement, considering that this figure was only 8.6 million in 2016.
The IEC was also preparing servers and data transmission for use at the results operation centres. There would also be update on the leader-board application for the results operation centres, websites and mobile applications. All political parties would be invited to audit the NPE results system, as had been the historic practice. The system would also be subjected to an external audit to ensure integrity.
There were currently 563 registered political parties. The process to register a party took approximately 60 days, including the publication of notification and to allow the process of objections. The IEC was currently reviewing the regulations for deposits by political parties. There was also a review of the process by which the order of political parties appeared on ballot papers was determined. There was a total of 73 095 recruited staff, 67 839 voting station staff, 4 392 area managers and 505 fieldworkers. 70% of the staff that had been recruited were women, more than 60% were unemployed people, and just over 40% were youths.
Mr Abrahams said that the registration weekend equipment and material would be delivered to the municipal level in January 2019. The ballot paper project would be delivered by September 2018 up to April 2019. The security items would be provided from July 2018 up to March 2019. An emphasis had been placed on a further 4% to 5% reduction in temporary voting stations from the current level of 1 182, taking into account there had been 1 495 temporary stations in 2014. All provinces would employ both Municipal Outreach Coordinators (MOCs) and Democracy Education Facilitators (DEFs).
The Political Party Funding Bill had been approved by the National Assembly in March 2018. The Bill was currently before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and would then be submitted to the President for proclamation. The current fiscal constraints presented challenges in respect of available resources, especially for additional areas of responsibility, including address sourcing and implementation of party funding legislation. The increasing use of litigation to resolve electoral disputes was placing an additional burden on resources. The fragile coalitions in a number of municipal councils had led to an increase in the number of by-elections and dissolved councils, which further diverted resources from the general elections.
Key risks had been identified, which included cyber threats, voters’ roll (addresses), technology implementation, demarcations and protest actions. The organisation was also concerned about the political tensions and conflict, including political violence in KZN. There was also a problem of an increase in litigation, as parties were increasingly turning to the courts to solve disputes rather than mediation or dialogue. The increase in litigation gave rise to a reduction in certainty of the election results.
The Chairperson urged the IEC to improve the systems that were in place in order to avoid a situation where some people would be disputing the results of the elections.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) appreciated the presentation that had been by the IEC and the work that had been done so far. It would be important to know if there would be any quality control measures in place to ensure that the MOCs and DEFs would adopt a non-partisan approach in their work.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said that the rules of this specific meeting granted that the general public could be allowed to ask questions on certain important matters people wanted to flag as concerns. It was good to hear that the IEC was still thinking about the procedure to be followed by those particular households without addresses, especially people in informal settlements and rural areas. The Committee should be briefed on the possible implication the Constitutional Court ruling would have on the upcoming elections. The various organisations and government departments that the IEC was looking to collaborate with -- like Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the Department of Social Development and the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) -- all had their offices in towns and cities, and therefore rural areas were excluded. There was this bias against people in rural areas in favour of those located in the cities, and this was something that needed to be addressed.
There was a matter that had appeared in the media alleging that that a certain political party had approached the deputy chairperson of the IEC, accusing it of being biased against that party. This was a legal matter, but the Committee would like to hear the input of the IEC on this issue. The Committee needed to be aware of it, as it was already in the public domain. The Committee needed to be made aware of any issues that were making the Commission uncomfortable.
Mr Khawula requested that the use of municipal offices should be made tight in terms of scrutiny and security, so as to avoid political bias. It would be crucial for the IEC to prevent political bias towards certain political parties at the municipal offices so that this did not impact on the impartiality of the Commission. Regarding the training that was being provided to SAPS members on the “dos and don’ts”, there were often cases where police officers would turn away people who were wearing political regalia at voting stations, and this was totally unacceptable. SAPS members should be trained properly on the “dos and don’ts.”
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) said the presentation that had been provided by the IEC was comprehensive and covered a number of issues. It should accommodate different types of disabilities, as there were cases of people who were blind and deaf, and these people needed to be accommodated. The IEC should also accommodate people with chronic illnesses, like providing emergency services. Was this happening currently? It was unclear if there were any collaborative efforts to accommodate the worst scenario that could happen at the voting stations.
There was a concern in Ward 9 in Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, where new informal settlements were mushrooming everywhere, and this was usually due to land invasions. The important question was whether these people would be accommodated. The Committee should hear from the IEC if there were any measures that had been put in place to ensure that foreign nationals were not being allowed to vote, as this was another concern in most areas. There were allegations that foreign nationals were being given identity documents in order to ensure that the DA would lose the Western Cape.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana said the former Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula, had previously asked if police officers were being trained in sign language to accommodate those voters who were deaf, but there had been no response. SAPS should at least train one police officer who would be able to communicate in a sign language. The Committee should hear if the IEC would be accommodating people with disabilities who would be coming in late to the voting stations. How much money had been set aside for the elections? There was an indication that the IEC would be using a lot of technology in the registration process, and the important question was whether this would accommodate people in informal settlements as they often lacked the means to access technology to communicate. There was also an issue in terms of the language to be used, as English was predominantly used in areas where people did not communicate in English. She asked if the people in poor areas like Masiphumelele in Hout Bay would be accommodated in these elections. What measures were in place to accommodate people in poor areas?
Ms P Samnka-Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) commented that the presentation showed that the IEC was ready for the elections next year. The Committee should be provided with the list of political parties that would be participating in the elections next year, including the new political parties that had just been established.
The Chairperson said the presentation had been interesting. The Committee should be provided with the exact date of the previous elections that the country had held. Who was responsible for conducting consultations with the President for the proclamation of the date for the national and provincial elections? Most of the inputs that had been made by Members were just comments, more than questions that needed to be answered. It would be important to know about the progress that had been made in regard to the amendment of the Act, as the Committee had other bills to deal with and this needed to be taken into consideration. What was the meaning of “mental health restriction”? The issue of online registration was a concern, especially when one considered issues like ‘hacking,’ and there was a lot that was happening behind the scenes in terms of technology. The Committee needed to look into the issues of the interests of those technological companies, as they were mostly foreign companies. What measures were in place to ensure that a person who was registered online was the real person?
The Chairperson commented that the matter of land invasion and households without addresses was something that the IEC needed to look into very seriously. What were the financial implications of the elections? Were any plans in place to minimise the possible postponement of these elections? There had been cases previously where farm workers were not allowed to take a day off and go to the voting stations and this was something that needed to be resolved. There should be temporary voting stations in place in these farming areas. The Committee would allow the IEC delegation to respond only to important questions and then respond to other outstanding questions in writing.
Mr Mashinini responded that it would be difficult to select the questions to respond to, as this could be subjective, but the delegation would try to respond to the important issues.
The Chairperson said that it would indeed be difficult to choose the critical matters to respond to, but the matter that was in the media was about the chairperson.
Mr Mashinini said that one matter that was important at the moment was the Constitutional Court ruling, and the matter was currently in court and therefore it could not be discussed.
Regarding the media report referred to by Mr Khawula, it had to be understood that the Commission was working as a collective, and the media statement had been made by an individual at the personal level. The Commission had not applied its mind on that particular issue, and therefore it would only respond when it had done so.
It was correct that the presentation had not gone deeply into the budget allocation, and this was precisely because the budget fell under the annual performance plan (APP) of the Commission. The Commission had already made a presentation of its APP to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, and there was a budget available. The issue of the budget allocation could be another item to be discussed at the next engagement.
There had been a consultation with the Head of State already, as the required by the Commission in preparation for the elections.
Mr Terry Tselane, IEC Vice Chairperson, responded that the President was the one responsible for proclaiming the date of the election in terms of section 17 of the Electoral Act, in consultation with the Commission. Section 18 of the Electoral Act also required the premiers to proclaim the date of the elections in consultation with the Commission. The President had been briefed on the preparations that had been undertaken by the Commission and the issues to be taken into consideration, in order for the President to make a determination of the date of the elections. The Commission also arranges for the President to have a meeting with the premiers to reach agreement on what had to be taken into consideration in making a determination on the date of elections. This process of consultation with the premiers was currently under way. The premiers could determine the date of elections other than the date that the Commission had agreed to, but this also had financial and logistical implications. The Commission preferred that the elections for national and provincial candidates to be on the same day.
Mr Tselane said that the Commission was working with the information that had been received from the Department of Home Affairs. The Commission was not allowed to verify it.
National Development Agency (NDA) briefing
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of Social Development, said the vacancies in the Executive had been filled, with the exception of the Chief Operating Officer (COO). The Department had advertised four times in search for a COO without any success, but would try again.
It said it was not only the Department of Social Development (DSD) that was supposed to fund the NDA, as other departments should assist the entity. However, the other departments were still not doing so, and the DSD would rely on the Committee to address this concern with other government departments. The NDA had also experienced budget cuts, and this simply meant that the organisation would not be able to open district offices as planned. It would be opening an office in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) through partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The NDA continued to establish cooperatives, which were being incubated for three years. The Department was looking to formalise the agreement between SASSA and the NDA to ensure that the DSD was able to utilise its own budget for incubation before reaching out to other organisations.
The Department was aware that the term of the current NDA board was coming into an end in January 2019, and it would be present this to the Minister and make recommendations. The Department was doing very well in the implementation of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy, and well in assisting the ECDs with toys and training the practitioners. The ECDs also needed to be renovated to comply with norms and standards.
Ms Thabo Mzobe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): NDA, said that the NDA had to act as a conduit for funding from government, foreign governments and other national and international donors for development work carried-out by civil society organisations (CSOs). The organisation also had to develop, conduct and coordinate the capacity of civil society organisations to enable them to carry out development work effectively. It was responsible for maintaining a database on CSOs and sharing the information in that database with the relevant organs of state and other stakeholders.
It was planning to achieve an unqualified audit opinion with findings. There was also a plan in place to ensure the approval of the integrated Human Resource Management and Development system. It aimed to ensure compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements. The organisation was planning to increase the number of CSOs that had to access development interventions aimed at developing their capabilities to efficiently manage, mobilise resources and become sustainable. It planned to assist 720 CSOs to formalise their structures per year.
There was a target to capacitate 5 000 CSOs in civil society organisational management per year. There was a plan to also assist 250 CSOs (7% in disability) that received grant funding per year. It aimed to establish 23 partnership agreements per year. There was a target to provide 35 reports with empirical information from research and evaluation studies to inform national development policy formulation, debates and engagements between the CSOs, the public and the private sector.
Ms Ngomusa Yeni, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): NDA, said that the NDA had been allocated R202 578 000 from the DSD for the 2018/19 financial year, and this was forecasted to increase to R226 829 000.
Ms Samka-Mququ welcomed the presentation that had been made by the NDA, as this was an important entity for social development. There were complaints that the entity was inaccessible in rural and poor areas, and this was the major concern for the Committee. The purpose of the NDA was to help poor people, especially those located in rural areas and informal settlements. What measures were in place to ensure that this was prioritised? The Committee should be briefed if there were any reasons why the programmes in place by NDA were not accessible to the poor people on the ground. Why were people in Khayelitsha and Langa not being given support? It was clear that it was difficult to see the real impact of the entity on poor people. It would be important to hear whether there was monitoring in place to see if these programmes were accessible to the poor.
Mr Khawula shared the same sentiments as Ms Samka-Mququ on the fact that the programmes of the NDA were inaccessible to poor people in rural areas. It was difficult even to get hold of the NDA at the existing offices of the organisation. The presentation had said that SASSA was the “big brother” of the organization, but this was a myth that needed to be dispelled, as SASSA was only a colleague of the NDA. The programmes in place were essential, but they could not be achieved without the assistance of the DSD. It should try and communicate more with people on the ground so that people were aware of this very important organisation. It was disappointing to note that it was setting targets that were not achieveable and realistic. The assumption was that this was because the organisation was not getting punished for its failure to achieve the targets.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was pressed for time and therefore it was not ideal to deal with this presentation in a rush, as there were still a number of issues that it needed to deal with. The Committee should allocate a day where the primary focus would be on having a discussion with the organisation. Members had already indicated that the NDA needed to be visible on the ground, as it was very important for people to be aware of it and seek help where necessary. The Committee was clear that the Department should support the NDA. It was concerning that there were many people in acting positions within the Department, and this needed to be addressed. It was impossible to expect other government departments to cooperate with the DSD when the Department itself was also not cooperating with the NDA. Two key questions that were coming from Members included issues of visibility within different communities, and also the issue of access to the NDA offices so that the organisation could be easily identifiable.
Ms Mzobe responded that the NDA was trying to force the Department to be the “big brother” in order to cooperate and work together. It could circulate the list of all the contact offices, including the persons to be contacted. The NDA was not supposed to be staying in offices, but rather to be active in the communities. It had tools in place to monitor the work that was being done by various organisations. Some of the communities did not even have community development units or community participation units, but the NDA contacted the municipalities to ensure that these units were being established. The community development officers were in touch with the municipalities and the municipalities were beginning to say that they needed these units. Some of the units did not have cooperative databases, and the NDA was working together with the municipalities to develop these tools. There were currently 51 development officers in place, as well as development managers and provincial managers in nine provinces. There had always been confusion between the NDA and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), and the organisation wanted to approach the NYDA so as to explain to people the difference between the two organisations.
There had been a resolution by the Board and the Executive Committee to have a partnership with banking institutions. This had been piloted in KZN, where the NDA had a relationship with at least one banking institution to manage the transactions for the grant-funded cooperatives and organisations. The cooperatives had to provide minutes of their meetings, and the decisions that had been taken on what needed to be purchased, and this had been submitted to the NDA. The NDA would be the one to issue a signed letter to be submitted to the banking institution when a cooperative or organisation wanted to do a transaction. The partnership with banking institutions had assisted KZN, as the Auditor-General (AG) did not have any findings against cooperatives and organisations in the province. NDA was trying to avoid the temptation of giving these cooperatives and organisations a huge amount of money until there was an assurance that these organisations were able to manage their own finances.
Most of the targets that had been set had been based on partnerships, and the NDA was in partnership with the DSD in the provinces. The figures in the targets were not thumb-sucked, as they were based on the allocated budget.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was only trying to caution the organisation not to have unrealistic targets, as Members would be criticising the organisation if it failed to achieve them. The Committee was hoping that there would be a follow-up on issues that had been flagged. It believed that the NDA was a most important entity that could change the situation of people living in poverty. The DSD was supposed to be doing what it was mandated to do, which was to assist the entity to achieve its mandate. The public was supposed to know about the NDA and what it was doing, as this would help a lot.
The meeting was adjourned.
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