IEC state of readiness for 2019 elections; Electoral Laws Amendment Bill [B33B-2018]: briefing; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Social Services

27 November 2018
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC) (Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefed the Committee on the objectives of the Electoral Commission Act, the amendments proposed to the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, and the preparations to the voters’ roll ahead of next year’s provincial and national elections.

A key issue raised was how the IEC would handle eligible voters who might not be able to produce an address. Members also wanted to know when the IEC’s voter education campaign would start, saying they had not seen or heard anything yet calling on the youth to register and vote.

The IEC explained the amendments made to the Electoral Commission Act, the Electoral Act and the Municipal Electoral Act. They indicated that most of the amendments proposed by the Bill related to normal operations, and therefore they did not foresee any implications with regard to finances, organisation, constitutional issues or communication.

They said the provincial and national elections would most likely take place on 8 May 2019. The voter education campaign would be in all nine official languages, and concerted efforts would be made to attract the youth to register and vote. People living in rural areas with no clear addresses would be assisted with descriptions of their living areas to enable them to register in a ward. The IEC was happy to note there had been an increase from 34% to 82% since 2016 in number of registrations with addresses provided by voters. People with disabilities would also be assisted and provided with the necessary voter education.

 

Meeting report

Briefing on Electoral Laws Amendment Bill

Mr Sy Mamabulo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), addressed the Committee on the objectives of the Electoral Commission Act and the amendments proposed in preparation for the voters’ roll in the upcoming provincial and national elections. The Bill also administered amendments to the municipal elections.

The amendments to the Bill would enable the EIC:

  • To use all available sources of data (from government) and information provided by voters for the Commission to compile and to maintain the national common voters’ roll;
  • To amend the Act to provide for the electronic submission of party registration applications;
  • To provide for the exclusive jurisdiction of the Electoral Court to adjudicate intra-party leadership disputes which might have a negative impact on the Commission’s preparation for elections;
  • To provide for the prohibition of the use of the name and its acronym, logo, designs or electoral material used or owned by the Commission, and that no person may use or trade under a name containing ‘Electoral Commission’, ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ or the acronym ‘IEC’.

On the Electoral Act, the following amendments were proposed:  

  • To revise the existing provisions relating to voter registration, the voters’ roll, voting districts and voting procedure;
  •  To regulate the publication of, and objections to, a provisionally compiled voters’ roll ahead of elections. This would help to establish a structured process for resolving these objections without jeopardising the preparations for elections;
  • To make clear that the election timetable may include any matter authorised in terms of the Electoral Act; and that the voter’s roll to be used in an election must the certified by the chief electoral officer for that election;
  • To clarify that the cut-off date for the registration of voters for an upcoming election must be the date on which the election was legally announced (proclaimed) by an election official;
  • That the chief electoral officer be given time to notify the relevant party or parties of a candidate’s name which appeared on more than one party list, and to give the party or parties an opportunity to substitute that candidate and re-order their party lists;
  • To withdraw the requirement that the identity document of a voter must be stamped as proof of voting;
  • To provide for a different voting procedure for voters whose names appear on the voters’ roll, but without addresses. If such a voter failed to produce an address, he/she would not be allowed to vote in the provincial elections, but only national elections;
  • That a party agent may object to a voter whose name appeared on the voters’ roll for the voting district in which the voting station was located. This would be based on allegations of fraud or other exceptional circumstances;
  • To limit the class of persons who may apply for accreditation to provide voter education for an election to juristic persons.

Mr Mamabulo said amendments to the Municipal Electoral Act provided for the prohibition of the use of public finances to fund party political campaigns. The Act also served to regulate the publication of, and objections to, a provisionally compiled voters’ roll before the elections. This would also give time to address any objections without causing a negative impact on preparations for the elections.

With the new amendments, the IEC envisaged no implications in the areas of organisation, finance, communication and the Constitution. The Bill would give effect to sections 1 (d), 19, 46(1), 105(1) and 157 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

Preparations for 2019 National and Provincial elections

Mr Mashego Sheburi, Electoral Matters: IEC, briefed the Committee on all aspects of the preparations for the 2019 national and provincial elections. The presentation dealt with election planning dates, the number of voting centres and voting districts in the country, new voting districts, provincial breakdowns of registered voters, the ages of voters, addresses of voters and IEC staff deployed in each area.

The first voter registration had taken place in January 2018, and another registration would be held over the weekend of 26-27 January 2019. A week before the second registration, prisoners and South Africans living abroad would be allowed to register to vote. During February, the IEC would visit universities and colleges to target new students for registration.

Important election planning dates were:

  • Registration: 2019;
  • Proclamation: February 2019 – the voters’ roll would be open for inspection by political parties to make any objections to particular name/names on the voters’ roll;
  • Certification: March 2019 – once the voter roll was certified, no political parties or persons would be able to object to the contents on voters’ roll;
  • Candidate nomination: 2019;
  • Ballot paper draw: March 2019 – a draw as to which political party would get the top space on the ballot paper;
  • Election: May 2019 – President Ramaphosa was on record as stating that elections would take place on Wednesday 8 May.

The number of national voting stations increased with every election, but it was no longer recommended to split voting stations. The IEC had introduced and created voting centres to administer the multiple voting stations, especially in very populated areas and metropolitan municipalities. This meant, should a voting station be located at a school, the voters’ roll would be divided into segments for the classes which would be used for voting. This was aimed to prevent voters having to stand in long queues.

Mr Sheburi said the voting districts throughout the country had also been increased for the convenience of the voters. According to Statistics South Africa, there was a 35-million Voting Age Population (VAP) eligible to vote, of which 26.1 million had registered as voters. When the Constitutional Court had ruled in 2016 that the addresses of voters must be compiled, there had been only 34% of voters with addresses on the voters’ roll. This had increased and currently there were 82% of voters with addresses on the voters’ roll.

The IEC’s Communication Campaign would be advertised on social and digital media, traditional media -- radio, television and community radio -- contact centres, posters, billboards and SABC education channels.

All technology to be used for the elections would be updated. The technology updates on election preparation would serve to:

  • Prepare servers and data transmission for use at the results operation centres;
  • Update the leader board application for the results operation centres, website and mobile applications’
  • All political parties would be invited to examine and test the National and Provincial Election (NPE) results system; and
  • The system would also be subjected to an external audit to ensure integrity.

Discussion

Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) asked why voters already registered on the voters’ roll would still be compelled to give an address. On the matter of the country’s “readiness” to vote, and millions spent on the campaign and training of officials, why had party agents during previous elections been refused permission to view the identity documents of voters? They had been threatened. What would the IEC do to prevent this from happening again?

He quoted from Section 8 of the Electoral Act, 1998: “(3) A person’s name must be entered in the voters’ roll only for (the) a voting district within the ward in which that person is ordinarily resident (and for no other voting district): Provided that where that person is ordinarily resident outside the Republic, his or her name must be entered in a segment of the voter’s roll created for that purpose.”. There were several voting stations to vote at, and he did not understand why people would choose to go to a voting station far from where they lived, and this situation was not open to manipulation.

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) said at informal settlements in Khayelitsha, more and more shacks were set up overnight and people were also bussed in from other areas, like from Saldanha. How would the IEC handle such a situation?

Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) communicated in Xhosa about the ballot paper. She said that the IEC must explain the sequence of political parties on the ballot paper. Many voters in the Eastern Cape faced challenges to cast their votes due to moving around as a result of fire, unemployment, illnesses, etc. Was the IEC was looking into such matters, to see how to accommodate these voters?

Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) said Limpopo was a fast growing province, and asked what the IEC planned to do to track people moving around.

Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) wanted to know why the IEC had come at only this late stage with amendments to the Bill.

Chairperson reminded Members that the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs had requested that the matter be finalised. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) still had to discuss it, which meant they would do so only after the 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA). To what extend had the IEC increased voter education, as she had failed to see any such awareness campaigns taking place.

If the number of youths eligible to vote were increasing, what specific voter education campaigns had the IEC embarked on to attract the youth to vote? Could the IEC could provide Members with the total number of persons with disabilities in each province who could vote, and if the IEC staff complemented those numbers? Migrant workers would not be able to travel to their hometown where they were registered to vote, so what provisions were in place to allow them their right to vote? Should the identity books be stamped, was there a chance the stamp could be removed and the person could vote twice? Farmworkers did not have knowledge of the erf numbers of the farms they lived on, so how did the IEC obtain addresses from them?

IEC’s response

Ms Janet Love, Commissioner: IEC, said a draft with the amendments had been provided to Parliament in April 2018, where the necessary processes had taken place, which had possibly caused the delay in today’s meeting. The IEC recognised the challenges voters faced in informal settlements such as fire, job opportunities elsewhere, health status, etc., so the necessary provisions had been provided to allow people to give fair descriptions of their place of living so an address could be registered. Registered voters on the voters’ role without an address, would be able to vote only in the national elections. V

It remained the IEC’s hope that people would vote in the voting district where they had registered. IEC officials were trained to ascertain whether the identity document of the voter belonged to him/her. The IEC had continued with its training and voter education programmes, and materials on voting were printed in all the official languages.

Mr Sheburi said people had to give a clear address when they registered to vote. Although the number of youths registered to vote had increased, it remained low on the voters’ roll. A new communication campaign aimed at the youth would be launched on 3 January 2019, and voter awareness campaigns would also be advertised on social media. The IEC had also introduced an additional form for people living in rural areas, who were unable to provide addresses. A description of their place of living would be obtained in order to register them in the correct ward. The same would apply to those living in informal settlements.

Mr Mamabulo explained that the number of IEC officials were deployed to areas according to statistics provided by the provinces. IEC officials would also go on “walking arounds” in areas to assess and understand the challenges in communities, and also to assess the needs of persons with disabilities. The IEC had established contact with community organisations who worked with persons with disabilities.

The sequence of political parties on the ballot papers was an issue still to be looked at, and one of the options was to settle for random sequencing. People who had registered and appeared on the voters roll and were away from home, but within their province, would be allowed to vote in terms of Section 24 (a) of the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. However, those without addresses would be able to cast a vote only in the national elections.

The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister, Ms Fatima Chohan, to explain as to why there had been a rush with the Bill, and what had caused the delays.

Ms Chohan said several delays had occurred at the time when the Bill was certified by the state’s law advisors, who had needed clarity on matters to be included for legislation. The certification of the legislation was delayed as the state’s law advisors wanted to include another document including a suggestion to solve the material issues which existed.

Mr Mongameli Kweta, State Law Advisor, said there had been no intention to delay the Bill. They had needed to ascertain that issues added to the Bill were constitutional. This followed the court order that the Department should compile all addresses of voters on the voters’ roll. The Bill could not be approved at this stage, as it had to be brought to Parliament, have public input and be decided on by the NCOP.

The draft minutes of 23 October, 6 November and 13 November 2018 were considered and approved.

The meeting was adjourned   

 

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