The Standing Committee on the Premier and Constitutional Affairs and Standing Committee on Local Government met with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to discuss the Western Cape’s state of readiness with regards to the upcoming 2021 Local Government Elections (LGE).
The IEC presented its preparations for the 2021 LGE. The presentation covered: election planning date; the road to LGE 2021; provisional timelines; cessation of by-elections; status of legislative amendments; ward demarcation; voting district delimitation; status of voters’ roll; recruitment and training; stakeholder management; communication and voter education; key innovations for LGE 2021; Covid-19 measures; and key challenges.
The ensuing discussion between Members and the IEC included: publication of updated ward maps; demarcation and the re-registration of voters; Targeted Communication and Registration (TCR); standard operating procedure for voter registration; school and community outreach programmes; online voters’ registration; new applications for Identity Documents (IDs); uncollected IDs; placement of voting stations and temporary voting stations within particular wards; the new Voter Management Device (VMD); updating voter addresses; IEC staff capacity and extended office hours; IEC offices closing without prior notice to Councillors; standard procedure for proclaiming dates; lack of resources and training; Covid-19 protocols for Election Day; impact of loadshedding on the voting process; suitability of Municipal Managers as Local Liaising Officers; engagement with the DHA; possibility of candidates standing for two different Municipalities; heightened tensions amongst political opponents in the run up to elections; dispute resolution mechanism to address tensions that arise from contestation; submission or translation of presentations into Afrikaans; and the appointment of Former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke to compile a report for the possible postponement of LGE.
The DHA presented the Western Cape’s state of readiness for the 2021 LGE. The presentation outlined the following: purpose; background; relationship between DHA and IEC; overview of services the DHA will render in the run up to 2021 Local Elections; DHA Western Cape: state of readiness for voters registration and elections; risks and risk mitigating strategies; contact information of Western Cape management structure; and recommendations.
The ensuing discussion between Members and the DHA included: inclusion of the Western Cape Parliament under the DHA’s stakeholders for the communication strategy; uncollected IDs and the collection thereof; possible posting of IDs; provision of Committee and IEC assistance; establishing which people do not have addresses; difference between medium and large offices; mobile units; list of DHA offices and contact numbers; long queues outside DHA offices; DHA office hours extended for voter registration weekend and possibly the week before; school drives and outreach programmes.
Members made resolutions in respect of thanking the IEC and DHA officials; inviting the IEC in future for further presentations; acknowledging the preparatory work done in terms of the elections; acknowledging the challenges; observing that Covid-19 protocols were professionally managed; and a possible cell phone app to assist the IEC; coordinating mechanism to get a date for the mobile hand over. Members would work with the DHA and IEC in arranging for new applications and for the collection of IDs.
Chairperson America welcomed everyone to the meeting. He explained that the meeting was a joint meeting called by the Standing Committees on the Premier and Constitutional Matters and Local Government. He allowed for Members to introduce themselves and explained that it was a hybrid meeting which consisted of some Members who were in Chambers and some Members who were online. He mentioned that Mr Anton Bredell, Western Cape Provincial Minister: Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Alan Winde, Premier: Western Cape, and various Heads of Departments, including Mr Graham Paulse, Head of Department: Local Government, Western Cape, were unable to join the meeting. He went on to ask if there were any apologies.
Chairperson Mackenzie confirmed that he had received no apologies and further stated for the record, that the Standing Committee did not invite the Premier.
Chairperson America said that the Local Government Committee was aware that Ms M Maseko (DA) was ill and would not be present. As a result of her condition, she had therefore tabled an apology. He then welcomed the officials and proceeded to introduced them. He mentioned to Members that it had been months since the Committees had met, so Members were at this stage fully conversant with the rules of engagement insofar as virtual meetings were concerned. However, he went on to explain the process for when any participant wanted to raise a matter or engage the presentation. Due to the limitation of resources, there were no interpretation services and he said that it was preferable for Members and officials to engage with each other in English. However, should there be no other option, there were colleagues that could assist with interpretation. He explained that the meeting would proceed with himself chairing the first session with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and that thereafter Chairperson Mackenzie would chair the second session dealing with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), any resolutions which may emanate from the engagement, as well as the closure of the meeting. He stressed his appreciation to the Procedural Officers for coordinating the meeting. The meeting emanated from a resolution taken by the Standing Committee on Local Government, but it was expedited by the SCPCA in terms of convening the meeting to get a sense of where the Western Cape was in preparation for the Local Government Elections later this year.
Chairperson Mackenzie said that the invitation for the meeting had gone out before the announcement made by the IEC on the appointment of the former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. The Committees thus understood that the IEC was not prepared on that part. However, he added that the Committees would appreciate it if perhaps the IEC could share the latest information, if available, with them. If the IEC did not have the latest information, then the Committees would obviously be mindful that the announcement was made after they had been invited.
IEC Preparations for the 2021 Local Government Elections
Mr Michael Hendrickse, Provincial Electoral Officer: Western Cape, IEC, presented the IEC’s preparations for the 2021 LGE. The presentation covered: election planning date; the road to lge 2021; provisional timelines; cessation of by-elections; status of legislative amendments; ward demarcation; voting district delimitation; status of voters’ roll; recruitment and training; stakeholder management; communication and voter education; key innovations for LGE 2021; Covid-19 measures; and key challenges.
The term of a Municipal Council is five years; therefore, elections must take place within 90 days of expiry of the term (between 4 August and 2 November 2021). The President has announced the date of 27 October 2021, but it is not proclaimed. The handover, to the IEC, of final ward boundaries took place on 1 December 2020 after public consultation. From then until March 2021, the IEC was tasked with aligning the voting districts to the new ward boundaries. From May until June 2021, the IEC is moving forward with targeted voter registration and communication to inform voters where their voting district has been affected by the change in ward boundaries. The general voter registration weekend is 17 and 18 July 2021. Candidate nominations are to take place during August or September 2021. From September to November 2021 the electoral process will unfold.
In terms of the Structures Act, by-elections may not be held for vacancies arising within six months of when general election must be held, i.e. any vacancy that arises after 1 May 2021. The MEC for Local Government has to determine that the by-election must stand over until the general elections. There are 4 by-elections in the Western Cape set for 30 June 2021. The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill has also been passed by both Houses of Parliament. Issues impacted include registration levels of political parties; providing varied voting procedures for voters without addresses; clarifying effective date of electoral code of conduct; balancing right to privacy and right to freedom of expression; and candidate nomination process.
The Western Cape has a total of 924 seats for 2021. In terms of the Draft Amendment Municipal Structures Act, a Local Council must consist of a minimum of ten Councillors. Municipalities that have less than seven seats will therefore need to get extra ward and party representation seats. The total number of seats is therefore subject to change. There is a total of 1 576 voting districts and 356 split voting districts. As of 4 May 2021, the total number of registered voters in the Western Cape is 3 035 389. The lowest number of registered voters is in the age group of 18-19 years old with 3 490 registered voters. In terms of the status of voters’ roll addresses across the country, 93.8% of registered voters have complete addresses, 1.1% of registered voters have potentially incomplete addresses, 4.9% of registered voters have no recorded addresses, and 0.3% have no formal address. For the Western Cape, 94.3% of registered voters have complete addresses, 1.4% of registered voters have potentially incomplete addresses, 1.6% of registered voters have no recorded addresses, and 0.1% have no formal address. The Western Cape has a total of 1 576 voting stations, 474 voting centres, and 31 temporary voting stations.
The IEC is currently filling contract staff positions. National and provincial registration training bootcamps are taking place and e-recruitment is being used for registration officials to apply. In terms of stakeholder engagement, free, fair and credible elections require cooperation of and participation by a wide range of stakeholders. The IEC began with an extensive stakeholder engagement programme in the third quarter of 2020 to provide information regarding election preparations and areas of mutual cooperation. This engagement will continue throughout 2021. The IEC also embarks on heightened communication and voter education programmes ahead of elections to ensure the electorate is empowered with information relating to participation in elections. In terms of civic and democracy education, Municipal Outreach Coordinators have been appointed for Democracy Education, Voter Education and Balloting Education. The IEC is holding stakeholder events to engage persons with disabilities, unions, community education etc. Communication will take place via community radio or through social media engagements.
Key innovations for LGE 2021 include the New VMD which is being procured ahead of LGE 2021 to replace Zip-Zips. The VMD will allow for enhanced voter registration and monitoring of voter participation in real time. The IEC revamped the public website for improved navigation and communications. A public reporting App for disinformation on social media towards the end of May will form part of a larger Electoral Justice System. The IEC introduced e-learning modules for training election staff as well as e-recruitment for internal staff appointments. There have been enhancements to the online candidate nomination system which has been used successfully. There has also been the introduction a new voter registration system and online observer application system.
To prevent elections posing a risk to participants, the IEC introduced a range of Covid-19 prevention measures for by-elections in 2020. Protective equipment was procured for election staff at voting stations and home visits were conducted for those voters that were unable to make it to voting stations. Key challenges for LGE 2021 include: being agile to Covid-19 pandemic levels; voter turnout; resource constraints; heightened political contestation; impact of service delivery protests smooth conduct of elections; and potential outstanding demarcation in 3 Municipalities. In terms of former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke being appointed to do a report for the IEC, given that political parties were invited, some parties had indicated that elections must carry on whilst others said that it should be postponed due to Covid-19. To assess these inputs and give other role players the opportunity to make comments thereon, Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke is well chosen given his experience in elections and his standing as a Constitutional Court judge.
Chairperson America thanked Mr Hendrickse and said that a lot of information had been shared with the Committees.
Mr P Marais (FF+) thought that the paper and report on how far the Western Cape was in respect of the elections was well presented and he was well satisfied. However, it was a lot of information to absorb. He therefore wanted to know whether the information was going to be available in Afrikaans too, because Constitution of the Western Cape said that Afrikaans was one of its three official languages and had to be treated equally. This information had to be distributed to various structures so that they could know what was going on. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) has lots of support in the predominantly Afrikaans-speaking communities. Further, to give the information to the FF+ organisers and regional leaders in English would mean very little to them. He was thus appealing to the House to take a decision that presentations of this nature be given in Afrikaans as well as in English, because Afrikaans is the home language of the majority of people in the Western Cape.
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) said that he had six short questions. In terms of his first question, it seemed to him as if the existing ward maps were still on the IEC website. Would Mr Hendrickse be able to give the Committees an indication of when the updated maps would be published so that voters would be able to see what the new boundaries were and whether they were correctly registered? This led him to his next question. Must voting stations really be within the boundaries of a particular ward? In Stellenbosch there were two cases where, if the boundary moved slightly, it would not affect a single voter but would include a school versus a temporary tent opposite the school on an open piece of land. He thought that everyone could agree that a school with a hall, ablution facilities, a kitchen, and a staff room was so much better for voters as well as for IEC staff on Election Day. Will voter addresses be updated on Election Day? In the past he knew that the IEC had said that it now concentrates on getting the voting process done in a way which would be accepted, free, and fair. However, it was known that this was also a unique opportunity and voters would now see the new Zip-Zip and what their current addresses were. Voters were known to move slightly within a town and would still go to where they were registered – which may not be the correct place for the next elections.
When will additional and temporary office staff be appointed? From what date will IEC offices then be open for five days per week? Currently it was known that the IEC was still on the ground and Mr Hendrickse had referred to the lack of resources and limitations. Because people were self-isolating and needed to go for training etc., members of the public had arrived at IEC offices to register as voters just to discover that the office was closed on that particular day. Are Municipal Managers always the best local liaising officers? It had been his experience that the IEC seemed to favour, if not by law, then in terms of practice, Municipal Managers. It was his impression that some Municipal Managers were already under tremendous political pressure and now suddenly needed to be seen as independent officers representing the interests of the IEC at the election process. Lastly, he requested that the IEC concentrate on providing training when it came to the counting and cross-balancing of ballot papers. To him, it was quite important that through the course of the Election Day everything is managed well. However, it had been his experience of many years that sometimes when everyone was tired, and the voting stations had closed that people just rushed the counting process and were not willing to do cross-counting. He said that he had been witnessing and complaining about cases where it was said, for example, that if a certain party had received a number of votes, then the big party must have received the remainder of the votes and therefore, they would not count the votes of that party. This pointed to a serious lack in terms of the training required.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-Ah) said that his first question related to online registration at the IEC. Is it currently possible for people to register online? If not, when will online registration be available? Secondly, can a candidate stand for its party in two different municipalities in one election?
Mr R Allen (DA) thanked the IEC for its presentation. He asked the IEC if there had been any engagement from their side with the DHA in terms of the way forward to ensure that those that did not have Identity Documents (ID), for example, were able to obtain those. Is it fast tracked? Does the IEC feel confident that the DHA is actually on board to come and help in that regard? Secondly, he understood that political parties had a big role to play towards voter apathy and to help and assist voters to ultimately register. He asked for an understanding so that the Committees could understand more regarding the TCR that is rolled out by the IEC in terms of its engagement prior to an election to engage voters and improve the quality of addresses. In the current difficult time, does this include schools? He asked for more information regarding this. Mr Allen said that he appreciated the strict protocols that were in place regarding Covid-19. Regarding the use of tents to vote, he understood the social distancing and mask etc. However, in terms of in the voting booth and pens etc., how will this be dealt with?
Chairperson Mackenzie asked what the standard procedure for proclaiming dates was. If the President had made an announcement, was it within three months or six months from the announcement? Where and how did one make input into the Moseneke process and when would it be advertised? Around the targeted voter registration, how, where, and when would the IEC let the Committees know? Regarding voter registration, so far, the IEC had only provided dates of the 16th, 17th, and/or 18th of July. In Mitchell’s Plain for example, previously one could take a taxi and go to the IEC offices. It was understood that it is Covid-19 but there did not seem to be a standard operating procedure. It was almost as if the manager at each venue, at the moment, implemented his or her own rules depending on the way in which they had woken up that morning. What are the standard procedures so that the Managers at each venue did not make rules as they went ahead? It worked very well in 2016 and 2018, according to his own personal experience, as one could take a taxi, stand outside, and register the youth. Now it seemed as if each manager made rules as they went along. Some managers would say that an appointment must be made within 72 hours. What is the standard operating procedure that would apply to every venue if one decided to take a taxi full of people to go and register?
Ms L Botha (DA) added on to what Chairperson Mackenzie had said and asked that the standard operating procedure be communicated to the Committees so that she could hold it forth in her Municipal area where she is the Party Liaison Committee (PLC) representative. Concerns were raised in Drakenstein not too long ago, where the IEC office was open on a staggered basis. In other words, people would go and would want to register voters but then the office would be closed without any notice given to counsellors. She complemented the IEC regarding the by-elections, as she had recently been to a few and protocols regarding Covid-19 were very well observed by the IEC. About the LGE, will dedicated staff be employed to manage those protocols? There would be many more people standing in queues to vote as would be had at a by-election. About the hours of registration in the rural areas, is the IEC open to go to where voters are, instead of voters coming to where the IEC office is if it is in one town? Would the IEC be open to go where multiple or potential voters are in order to register?
Chairperson America said that if Members had any additional questions, then he would certainly provide them another opportunity in the second round. He mentioned that he had some questions himself. With regards to the demarcation and the re-registration of those voters, he knew that in his own constituency a huge number of voters were moved from one ward to another. Would the IEC conduct the re-registration process themselves or is it incumbent upon political parties to ensure that those voters are re-registered in the different ward? Are they automatically re-registered in a different ward? Is there a notification that will be issued to voters stating that they now fall in ward six and not ward five for example? Secondly, in relation to loadshedding, what provisions have been made for the possible impact that loadshedding may have on the voting process on Election Day – particularly within rural areas and where there are temporary voting stations? Regarding the new innovative machines, would it be dependent upon an electric power supply or is it remotely activated? Thirdly, the IEC alluded to the fact that in the run up to the elections there was often heightened tensions that emanated amongst political opponents. The intimidation of voters was also ratcheted up during the period leading up to the elections and during the Election Day. Has the IEC created a dispute resolution mechanism that could speedily address disputes that may arise in terms of complaints? It was known that by-elections were often easier. He said that there would be a provincial election and it would be widespread across the province. There needed to be a mechanism to deescalate tensions that may arise as a result of the contestation. He asked for any follow up questions.
Mr Marais raised a point of order. He asked if the Committees could have a ruling from Chairperson America that the Committees do not allow Members to have 20+ questions taking half an hour of the time. Rather, he asked that Chairperson America limit the number of questions in each round, otherwise the Committees were going to sit in the meeting the whole day. The IEC had a presentation which had covered most of the questions, yet Members were still asking 12+ questions at one go and they were long winded. Could there be a ruling on this?
The Chairperson responded saying that he did not think that Mr Marais’ point of order required a ruling at this stage as the questions had already been asked. However, he noted Mr Marais’ point and said that if there is a second round of questions it would be communicated to Members to restrict themselves in terms of the questions that they ask.
Mr Hendrickse said that he would be guided by the Chairperson. Responding to Mr Marais’ request to convert the presentation into Afrikaans he said that because most of the information in the presentation was statistics, it would be possible for the Committees to convert it into any of the official languages. From the IEC’s side, when it went out it communicated in the three official languages of the Province when it did its voter education. For example, when the IEC went onto community radio stations it would communicate in terms of the language of that radio station which served a particular language audience. The IEC was thus responsive to the concern.
Mr Marais said that he had asked whether the paper which the IEC had presented would be available to Members in Afrikaans too. He was not talking about the public but the Members.
Mr Hendrickse responded by saying that he would have to see what the IEC’s resources were with regards to that. However, the IEC would certainly try and do a translation for Mr Marais if it were fine with him.
Mr Marais confirmed that it was fine with him.
The Chairperson asked Mr Marais to allow Mr Hendrickse to respond to all the questions before any further questions were raised. Should there be a concern with the way in which some of the questions had been responded to, Members would then be given an opportunity to raise it after Mr Hendrickse had responded.
Mr Marais said that the Chairperson was tasked with the responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the Western Cape – it was his job as Chairperson or Speaker. The Western Cape Constitution stipulated that Afrikaans was an official language and that everything had to be in two out of the three languages at least. He added that he was asking for Afrikaans to be respected and that this question could not be delayed.
The Chairperson said that he did not want Members to interrupt Mr Hendrickse whilst he responded to the questions, which was what Mr Marais had done. He was not withstanding the validity of Mr Marais’ input but would implore upon Members to allow Mr Hendrickse to respond to the questions and if they wished to make a statement thereafter with regards to the responses then an opportunity would be provided to them.
Mr Hendrickse continued onto Mr van der Westhuizen’s question. He said that he would have to investigate the issue of maps and thanked Mr van der Westhuizen for bringing it to his attention. He mentioned that he would bring it to the attention of his office and follow up with it, if in fact the IEC still had the older maps on their website. In terms the voting procedure, s47 of the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act says that the voter must vote only at the voting station in the District in which that voter is registered. As is, this was where the current law stood and where this would be in the future if the IEC went further down the road in terms of online voting etc. In terms of the updating of addresses, when one goes to vote one can update their address but cannot register on the date of election. The voters roll that would be used was the voters roll as it existed on the date of proclamation. Certainly, if a voter came only on Election Day they could also still provide the IEC with their address and it would be recorded but it would be part of the voter registration system. He emphasised that this did not mean that a voter could register and vote in the present election if they had not previously registered before the voters’ roll closed for that particular election. On the appointing of office staff, the IEC had a standard and he said that he would make sure that Members received a copy of the instruction that they had sent out to their local offices on when and how to deal with registrations at the local office. There would be limited staff and some staff would be out because the IEC would be conducting TCR’s etc., so there would be times when the IEC offices would be closed. This was just the IEC’s reality.
The IEC was in the process of appointing additional staff and they would come on board. However, the idea was that the office hours and schedules are and would be communicated to the local PLC members so that they are also aware of when the office will be closed. Similarly, it was said that based on Covid-19 the IEC could not allow a lot of people to arrive at the same time. Therefore, the IEC had asked that when political parties wanted to bring a large number of supporters to the offices, that they made an appointment as it was just fair and reasonable. He said that he would get this out to the Committees’ coordinator who could distribute it to Members. Regarding whether the municipal managers were the best Municipal Election Officers (MEOs), he thought that it was important to understand the role of an MEO. Primarily, the role of the MEO was to be the liaison between the IEC and the Municipality in order for the IEC to access the resources of the Municipality. There was no other role. The IEC was still running the election at the end of the day. Either way, it was beholden on any official at any sphere of Government that when it is performing its functions as an official they will have to perform it without fear, favour, or prejudice. This was the model applied by the IEC and they went through the process where Municipalities could recommend either a Municipal Manager or a senior municipal official. There had been one or two cases within the Western Cape, where the MEO was not the Municipal Manager but one of the senior officials of the administration. It was thus not a given that the Municipal Manager would always be the MEO. The IEC went with the recommendation of the council because, at the end of the day, when the IEC accessed the resources, council had to be aware of when the IEC wanted to access certain resources and assistance from the Municipality.
When it came to the issue of counting votes or training, he agreed 100%. He thought that a lot of the time a lot of emphasis was placed on the roll out and preparing everything, making sure that everything went where it had to be. However, the challenge was that when it came to the counting process and roll back of both the results and the material. This was something which he had previously indicated to his training staff, in that they needed to make sure that they concentrated thereon as well as see what some of the lessons learned in the past were and how it could be improved on. However, Members knew that the infrastructure across the Province was not equal. There were situations in some communities where, given the infrastructure that was available, it was vastly different to other areas. This was a challenge that the IEC was consistently sitting with and he hoped that as Members of the Legislature and their oversight over government departments, when they looked at what they were doing in those particular communities, that this was also borne in mind and that it would be of assistance. He told Mr Brinkhuis that the online registration was not on yet and that the IEC was working on this particular App. As was known, this was something that the IEC had to be incredibly careful of as one was literally allowing remote registration. In other words, the IEC would not see the person registering. The IEC was thus looking at how to best build in a level of security to ensure that it is not people just sitting somewhere and registering on behalf of someone else. At this stage he could not give Mr Brinkhuis a date because he was waiting, for the finalisation of the App at the National Office. As soon as the IEC knew, it would publish it and perhaps by the time he came back to the Committees he could answer Mr Brinkhuis. However, he was sorry that he could not provide a better response.
In terms of whether a candidate for a party could stand in two provinces, his answer was definitely not. When looking at the Constitution of the Republic of South, s158 states that one could be a Member of Council for the Municipality in which one is registered. Therefore, one could not serve two Municipalities or be a candidate in two Provinces. The only time that one could possibly be a candidate twice was in the case of a district council and local council, but this would be in the same area. In terms of the TCR, he confirmed that the IEC was rolling it out. Also, with the school’s demarcation the IEC was in touch with the schools to see to what extent they could visit the schools. The IEC was aware of the different Covid-19 protocols that applied and was engaging with schools so that it could go to schools and encourage them. It was to be remembered that a South African citizen can register to vote as soon as they are 16 years old and in possession of an ID but can only vote once they turn 18 years old. It was thus good to register so that if the elections happened and you have just had your birthday, you would be able to vote because you would get automatically included in the voters’ roll for that particular election. With the DHA, he said that there had not been a lot of engagement with the DHA but that the IEC had identified an initiative where it would like to work with the DHA when it was delivering IDs. This was so that the IEC could work with the DHA and possibly have a situation where it could process registration applications when the DHA was handing out IDs, bearing in mind the Covid-19 situation. Regarding the pens used for voting, he confirmed that they will be disinfected. As was generally done with the materials at voting stations, the pens that were used were disinfected all the time. The IEC also encouraged voters to bring their own pens – there was nothing stopping a voter from bringing their own pen to the voting station.
The proclamation date was the prerogative of the Minister. He said that he was not too sure and did not want to quote the relevant section, but he knew that the Minister must proclaim as soon as their term has ended. He therefore knew that the Minister would definitely have to proclaim but he was unaware of whether she could do so prior to the end of the current term and did not want to answer that without having double checked it. With regards to the Moseneke report and process, he said that as soon as the Judge was on board, he would make known what the actual process was. This would be widely publicised by the IEC on its website etc. For example, he knew that political parties would definitely be invited to make their submissions. Regarding Drakenstein being open on a staggered basis, Mr Hendrickse said that he would speak to the local IEC office because it should be informing the Multi-PLC (MPLC) about when the offices are open. He added that he would follow up on the issue of the Drakenstein MPLC. With the by-elections and Covid-19 protocol, again, the IEC was hoping that it had had an effective trial of the Covid-19 protocols for elections. He was very much aware that the number of people would differ, and whether or not the IEC would actually have more people would have to be seen to in terms of resources and what it had available. The IEC again asked Members, as leaders of political parties, to assist and ensure that social distancing and the Covid-19 protocols are adhered to when it came to elections and facilities that parties manned outside the voting station. This was especially for political parties as they had temporary operating facilities, which was a tent outside of the voting station, and often this was where people congregated. The IEC would try its best to also assist in this regard and would also be calling on the assistance of the South African Police Services (SAPS) to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are adhered to because this was happening outside of the voting station. The IEC would thus be working with everyone in terms of ensuring that elections are safe as it was in the best interests of everybody.
In terms of registration and whether the IEC would go out to areas, the IEC was busy working thereon and had appointed the Municipal Outreach Coordinators and were looking at where they could go out to particular places and have a registration event in that particular area. The IEC could not however go to any event taking place without being sure that Covid-19 protocols are in place as not to inadvertently create a mini-spreader event at such place. Regarding the demarcation of wards and re-registration, the IEC re-registered voters. At the end of the day, it was the IEC that had to ensure that voters who had moved were re-registered in the correct district. If a voter’s new address now found them somewhere else, the IEC also issued s12 notices to voters where the IEC told them where their voting station was and that it may be different from where they thought that it was. He said that loadshedding was always a particular issue and he was already in contact with the Regional Head of Eskom around this. For example, even now when having by-elections, the IEC was advising Eskom as to where it would be having them so that the impact of loadshedding could be limited. The IEC was also hoping that Municipalities could assist them where they could, especially where there was a need for generators etc. With regards to the VMD, this came with batteries – so it could either be plugged into a socket or it could use battery power. Further, every unit came with a spare battery as well. Regarding the heightened tensions, he confirmed that it was so.
Again, he called on Members as leaders of their parties to ensure that the tensions did not escalate as the tensions were typically between parties. He said that it was always amazing that, even at local level, people were so well-behaved every day but then on election day something happens and colleagues who were previously very close would enter into disputes. The IEC will again be having their conflict mediation panels in the Western Cape. He had been informed that the IEC was in the process of finalising that plan to deal with certain conflict situations. However, he primarily asked political parties to intervene as it was their members who caused the tensions when there were nasty disputes amongst one another – especially because the party members knew each other at different leadership levels and could assist. He reminded Members that there had been an electoral court decision with regards to the jurisdiction of the IEC when it came to offences and contraventions of codes etc. The electoral court was noticeably clear and had said that the IEC could not determine, adjudicate, or impose any sanction. It would be noticed that in the electoral legislation it spoke about the different sanctions from fines right up to suspending a candidate or registration of a political party. The electoral court was thus very clear in saying that those particular disputes were not something for the IEC to manage or decide, but rather it was for the electoral court. Even a Magistrate’s Court, in terms of the rules of that electoral court, could convert itself into an electoral court – like how a Magistrate’s Court could convert itself into an equality court, there were similar provisions here. Members thus had to be aware of this. He knew that this matter was currently subject to an appeal and as soon as the next court has given clarity on the matter, he would endeavour to get a copy of the judgment to the Committees’ Secretary so that Members could have access thereto and understand what the implications thereof would be in terms of how the IEC dealt with particular disputes. He thought that the best way to deal with disputes was for the parties, amongst each other, to come to some resolution and not to leave it to a judge because sometimes nobody is happy with the ruling and it does not deal with the issues at hand.
The Chairperson said that one and half hours had been allocated to the IEC’s presentation and that they had gone slightly over and above the time allocated. He added that he would allow for any serious follow up questions. He spoke to Mr Marais’ statement and let the meeting know that the Committees had not requested the IEC or the DHA to provide them with presentations in all three languages of the Province. As per usual practice, 99% if not 100% of presentations were in English. He advised Mr Marais that if he wished for the presentation to be translated, he should liaise with the parliamentary translation services to assist him in having the presentation translation. He said that he would not impose such duty on the IEC to provide the Committees with a translated copy. The Committees would have further engagements with the IEC as it moved along towards the elections and all Members would again be invited to such meeting.
Mr Van der Westhuizen said that perhaps Mr Hendrickse had missed his call for clarity regarding temporary voting stations right on the boundary of a ward when opposite the street there was a school not being used by the IEC, but which fell just outside the ward boundaries in the past. Would there not be a case to be made for either the boundaries to be redrawn or for the school to be used rather than the tent?
Mr Hendrickse confirmed that this was the case. If Mr Van der Westhuizen was aware of the area and school, he asked that he let him know because the IEC typically preferred a school. As had been communicated to the Committees earlier on, he was intent on reducing the number of temporary voting stations because he thought that people should be able to vote in dignity and in a way that is conducive to elections as well. Where there were schools, he had asked the IEC staff to make it available. One thing that he needed to make clear was that, depending on where the voting station boundary is, in some cases the IEC did not have a choice because it may be a big road or because moving a boundary may move voters from the adjacent boundary as well and not just the school. Through the procedural officer, if Mr van der Westhuizen wanted to let him know about the specific school then he could do so. Alternatively, Mr van der Westhuizen could also raise it with the MPLC member, and the IEC would then have a look at it. The other thing was that if it concerned a ward boundary then the IEC did not have much of a say in it.
Mr Marais said that he would be speaking in Afrikaans and that if the Chairperson stopped him then it was his right to do so but that he did not know in which clause of the Constitution he had such right. Did the Chairperson say that he did not ask the IEC to make submissions in Afrikaans as well or in any other language besides English and that any other submissions in the House are not requested in Afrikaans either? He wanted the Chairperson to answer this so that the electorate or public voters could hear if the DA respected Afrikaans or trampled it under foot. Was this what the Chairperson had said, in that he did not request submissions in Afrikaans? He therefore said that he did not, as a Member of Parliament, have the right to read submissions in Afrikaans.
The Chairperson expressed that what Mr Marais had said was a distortion of the truth of Parliament. Any Member of Parliament had the right to express themselves in their language of choice. At the start of the meeting, he had said that Members had a restriction against some languages for this meeting because of language translators not being available but that Members could speak in the language of their choice and that an arrangement could be made for the translation thereof. He knew and it was very obvious that the three languages were recognised in the Western Cape, that it was in the Western Cape Constitution, and that it was seen in the people of the Western Cape’s interactions with one another. Therefore, the statement that the DA missed or overlooked Afrikaans was, in all truth false. He said that the Committees requested submissions from any outside persons doing presentations, to do them in all three languages. He concluded that he would not discuss this point further as he had made his point. If Mr Marais wanted the presentation translated in Afrikaans, he could discuss it with the translation services that would be able to help him with it. He closed the discussion around the IEC and thanked Mr Hendrickse for the presentation and responses. He knew that the IEC would be having an extremely busy time leading up to the elections and on behalf of the Committees he wished the IEC strength and courage for the decisions that it would have to make in the months to come.
Mr Hendrickse thanked the Committees for their interaction as they had an oversight role to play, which he appreciated. Whenever the Committees wanted, he was thus available to come back.
DHA WC State of Readiness: Local Election 2021
Mr Thomas Sigama, Deputy Director-General: Civic Services, DHA, presented the Western Cape’s state of readiness for the 2021 LGE. The presentation outlined the: purpose; background; relationship between DHA and IEC; overview of services DHA will render in the run up to 2021 Local Elections; DHA Western Cape: state of readiness for voters registration and elections; risks and risk mitigating strategies; contact information of Western Cape management structure; and recommendations.
In effecting the constitutional right to vote, the DHA is responsible for population registration, determination of citizenship, issuing of enabling documents, and other related services. In terms of the Identification Act, 1997, the DHA is also responsible for processing IDs to all South African citizens, which enables holders thereof to identify themselves for purposes such as voting. The DHA thus accords such persons the right to register and vote in elections through providing IDs, temporary identification certificates (TICs), and a data ecosystem which the IEC shares for a direct interface to citizenry data for authentication and verification of voters. Accuracy of citizens data is hence checked against the National Population Register (NPR). The DHA and IEC also develop programmes together for ID campaigns.
In terms of services to be rendered in preparation for voter registration and elections, the DHA will have extended operating hours on dates set out by IEC voter registration and on election day. Other services include distributing uncollected IDs, performing online fingerprint verification to issue TICs, verification and handling of queries form clients referred by IEC, communication to inform clients of extended DHA operating hours, conducting public awareness campaigns for distribution and collection of IDs, bolstering staff at high volume offices to assist with collection of Smart ID cards, appoint team leaders to provinces for oversight, and establishing a monitoring team. There are also Youth, Moetapele and Stakeholder Forums to assist offices with mobilising the public and distributing lists of clients with uncollected IDs. Security will perform functions at DHA offices on election day and the DHA has set up self-service mechanisms for clients to inquire about the status of their IDs.
Regarding the Western Cape’s state of readiness for voter registration and elections, the DHA is located in all districts. In terms of footprint, the DHA has more than 412 offices country wide, out of which the Western Cape has about 28 offices. 86% of the offices are modernised and 10 out of the 28 offices are high volume offices. There are also 4 bank branches located in the Cape Metro and 10 mobile units allocated per metro and district. The mobile units help the DHA to navigate to areas where there is no footprint.
There is a total of 429 000 uncollected Smart ID cards as of 31 April 2021, with the Western Cape’s contribution being 49 634 from front offices, 40 from banks, and 248 from mobile units. The DHA encourages clients to collect their documents and has planned to re-send messages to these clients. The DHA’s approach is to identify areas with high volumes of uncollected IDs. The DHA will work with stakeholders to distribute green IDs by sending a list of these clients so that stakeholders can assist with mobilisation. Mobile units will also be used to distribute the green IDs. The DHA will enlist services of community development workers to schedule visits for ID collections, and there will be ID campaigns at schools to target learners in Grade 11 and 12. High volume offices will be prioritised, and staff increased to assist in issuing IDs. The DHA asks the Committees to assist them in making sure that people are alerted to collect their IDs so that they will be ready for voter registration.
The DHA’s communication strategy includes working closely with media houses, radio bulletins, radio stations, and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). Youth and Stakeholder Forums are also there to assist offices with mobilising the public, distribute uncollected green ID books, and record incidents. There are ID distribution plans in place in different areas of deployment. There are also ID outreach campaigns in place with various stakeholders which are to take place in various areas.
The DHA identified the risk of eminent closure of offices due to Covid-19 infections. The mitigation strategy includes maintaining 75-90% capacity levels at high volume offices and deploying mobile units to affect offices to render critical services. Loadshedding is a further risk. The mitigation strategy includes installing all offices with generators and UPS to maintain systems during loadshedding. There is also the risk of high client volumes and non-compliance with Covid-19 protocols. The mitigation strategy includes immigration officers being deployed to assist with law enforcement, and the City of Cape Town Law Enforcement is to assist with non-compliance of unruly clients. Officials have been appointed to ensure everything runs smoothly on Election Day and contacts are provided to report challenges.
The Chairperson thanked the DHA. The presentation included some information that he had not seen before, which he really appreciated as it helped the Committees a lot. It was his belief that under the DHA’s stakeholders they could include the Western Cape Parliament as part of the communication strategy in getting those 50 000 people to collect their IDs. He had spoken to Chairperson America, and the Committees would certainly do something about it because it meant 50 000 voters, and everyone had an interest to ensure that they collected their IDs.
Mr Marais thanked the DHA for its presentation as he could see that the DHA was really active in trying to make this a successful election. How did the DHA establish which people did not have addresses? Did the DHA make use of aerial photography and then take an estimate of how many people may live in an informal house? How did the DHA get to that figure? Secondly, what did the DHA mean by Medium Offices? He said that he could not understand what the DHA meant by a medium and large office. The DHA gave the Committees lists of offices that it had where people could go to if they wanted to ask something or collect their IDs. However, he had seen some of these offices and the queues were forever. Is there no other way for people to contact these offices? For the Western Cape, did the DHA have a 0800 number or a 021 number where people who could not collect their IDs could phone to find out if the IDs could be posted to them? Must they collect the IDs in person and stand in the queue for hours, waiting for the DHA offices – especially with Covid-19 being the fear factor? He said that he could see long queues and some of these people who had to collect their IDs were over 60 years old. How could these people be helped and prevented from standing in queues to collect their IDs, as it is winter now and it is raining?
The Chairperson provided some guidance before Members continued. The presentation was specifically around election readiness. He was sure that all Members had significant matters that they wished to raise with the DHA. The DHA would and could be invited in the future to do a presentation on service delivery, passports etc. but the current presentation by the DHA was specific around election readiness. He thought that a few people had received this brief; hence there were still hands up. Members knew him, and he did not like hijacking people for the purpose that they were not here for. This presentation was for election readiness and Members’ hands would be taken if they could stick to election readiness and not on unrelated matters.
Mr Van der Westhuizen said that his question was regarding the uncollected IDs, which were for 50 000 potential voters. Members all wanted people to exercise their democratic right and not for any administrative hurdles to be in their way. How can the Committees and/or the IEC assist the DHA to unite those IDs with their rightful owners? Surely on the IEC’s side it had addresses for many of these people. He believed that political parties were moving around, and he did not for one single moment want the Committees to handle the documents. However, he just wanted people to be reminded that there was an ID waiting for them to be fetched at a specific DHA office, and that they did not have to stand in a queue and could go straight to the front, or whatever the message may be. Is there any way in which our DHA officials see a role for others to help them to ensure that the final step in the issuing of IDs is overcome?
Mr Brinkhuis asked the DHA if there was a contact number whereon the DHA could be contacted in the Western Cape, to come out to a specific voting station to help people obtain IDs. People were going to the current DHA branches and the lines were very long, it was winter, and it was raining. He thus asked if the IEC could make available a contact number or email so that Members could ask and arrange with them to come out to any place that is appropriate for people to obtain their IDs.
The Chairperson said that he had seen, as was previously done, that the DHA was open during voter registration weekend. He also saw on the presentation that the DHA would be open that weekend. Is it possible and has the DHA considered adjusting its times the week before or the weekend before voter registration weekend? In the past it had worked very well with the offices in Mitchell’s Plain, however, it became time consuming for all political parties when on the day voters had to be driven to the DHA to do their IDs and back again to collect their IDs. In his opinion, if this exercise was done the weekend before or the hours were extended the week before, all parties would be allowed to allocate their resources and time on that weekend and simply focus on voter registration. On distribution, he had seen that the DHA had mobile units out in particular areas. Where could Members influence the DHA? Could Members email the DHA to come out to Mitchell’s Plain on a particular time and day? Are Members still allowed to influence this process and can it be done over the next few days and weeks? On the school drives, he had seen that the DHA had one school where they had dealt with a particular principal. How did the DHA advertise when it came out to a particular school? Is it the school principal’s prerogative or is the DHA working with the district? This question was asked so that the Committees could also assist in getting the numbers up. What would be frustrating for the DHA and IEC would be for them to go to a particular school or venue only for there to be five people there, as opposed to working with a Local Councillor or Local MPL and getting 50 people there. It was thus in everyone’s interest if people were registered to vote. He allowed for responses and said that follow ups would be taken if time allowed.
Mr Sigama said that he would leave the operational issues to his colleagues but would largely try and respond to the strategic questions raised. In terms of the address processes, he thought that this was one thing that was being dealt with by the IEC. However, as the DHA, its database kept the addresses as and when a person visited them for an application. The DHA thus used it so that when it tried to run the interface, it then made a comparison in terms of the address that the client used when applying for the ID and the address used on the other side for voter registration. This was something that was normally worked on electronically. In terms of the determination of small, medium, or large offices, the DHA had a unit which dealt with footprint. There were also standards set by Government on the size of offices and they had a unit called channel management which had standards that looked at the population and size of the office, square meterage allocated, and the community that is waiting to be served in that locality to determine the size of the office. The DHA was in the process of revising its access model. In terms of the growth in communities, the DHA needed to realign and make sure that it revised its access model to cater for the population in some of the areas that were not catered for before. Where there was no footprint at all, this was where the DHA had tried to use its mobile units that had been displayed. In terms of registration and other services, the DHA had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Health, whereby it was now trying to make sure that it extended its footprint in most of the health facilities country wide. He said that Members might be aware that South Africa had more than 145 health facilities with maternity wards, so the DHA had a staggered plan that was presented and approved by the DHA and which would run for a period of five years. The DHA started this plan in the previous year and this year it would be continuing with the same programme until such time when it has ramped up all the health facilities so that it can then be registered at that source. This would then also free the DHA from the long queues that were seen at most of the front offices. This was a long-term plan but the DHA hoped that it would assist them in the near future.
On the issue around having special collections for those that were not able to visit the DHA and to prevent Covid-19 and long queues, he said that he would answer this in two ways. Firstly, for those people who had applied for green bar-coded ID books, the local office would make special arrangements to visit them. The local office would thus prepare a list of all of those people who had green bar-coded ID books and through the assistance of the Western Cape Government they would be able to assist the DHA in terms of location and where those people resided. Distribution arrangements would then be made to make sure that those IDs reached those people in those particular areas. For those people who had applied for Smart ID cards, unfortunately the system did not allow the DHA to hand over a Smart card without verifying the fingerprint. This meant that if a person had applied in the Barrack Street office, the DHA would then encourage that person to visit them there. However, arrangements that had been made in the office itself was that anyone who was 60 years old and above was not supposed to queue as the DHA would prioritise them and had a dedicated counter for collection. This meant that as soon as all elderly people were identified, they would then be allowed to go straight to a counter for collection – this was done for both ID books and Smart ID cards. Should there be an increase in terms of numbers; the DHA would make sure that there is a mobile unit placed closer to the office so that the queue could be redirected for collection. Any other application would have to follow the normal process, but for collection purposes the DHA had put measures in place so that all those who were geared up for collection would be prioritised to try and fast track the collection in the DHA front offices.
There was a comment asking, in terms of the uncollected IDs, how the IEC and Western Cape government could assist to spread the message and make sure that people were aware of the collection. The DHA really appreciated this, and it was something that it had always been striving for, to say that everyone needed to work together. The DHA also had a Stakeholder Forum Committee in the Province, which then identified those areas and assisted the DHA in terms of the location. The DHA also encouraged them, through the coordination of the province, to assist the DHA to make sure that it then pushed those numbers towards those forums. This would also help the DHA in making sure that it reduced the numbers of uncollected IDs throughout the Province. The DHA thus welcomed this, and its coordinator would make sure that there is provision in all the meetings and that they then assisted in making sure that the numbers are reduced. Regarding the issue around the contact details for someone who could assist when collecting IDs, Ms Irmgard Michaels, Acting Provincial Manager: Western Cape, DHA, remained the contact person as the acting Provincial Manager. He said that he had checked her numbers and the email address, as well as the number of Ms Almien Van der Berg, Provincial Coordinator, DHA, at the back office, which were the two officials that could be contacted so that should there be anything the DHA would know to use them as its focal point. These were the people who then coordinated and, should there be a need for the DHA to intervene at the back office then the DHA always supported them. He said that there was fair comment around the DHA opening an office a week prior to voter registration to avoid the rush during voter registration weekend. He thought that the DHA welcomed the comment and investigated it, but it did not stop the Province from making its own arrangements. The DHA would also have a plan in place wherein the youth would normally then put a plan together and set a programme which would talk to the build up towards voter’s registration. He said that he would then talk to Ms Michaels so that she would then check the programme and align it with what Members had raised as he thought that it was a good point to consider as to avoid issues of stampedes on the day of voter registration.
Ms Michaels thanked the Chairperson for enriching the DHA’s communication strategy in indicating that indeed the Western Cape Parliament would assist the DHA within the communication strategy to enable it to get the message out there that it had quite a high number of uncollected IDs in preparation for voters to be able to register. She added that the DHA still had room to work on its mobile schedules towards the end of June and July. The DHA would thus gladly be able to assist where possible in terms of the scheduling of their mobile units where it is required. With regards to the schools and how the DHA went about having mobile outreaches to schools, the mobile units were based in specific offices. These offices would have a list of all high schools where grades 11s and 12s were at school and it would engage those school principals directly. The school principals would then indicate the dates for mobile units to schedule, of course in consideration of their own programmes that they offered for these learners. On that basis the DHA then got numbers from the principals, which informed the DHA of how many dates it needed to schedule as per the availability of the schools. The schools also assisted greatly because, as it was known, for first-time applications the DHA required a parent to be present. The parent would then be invited, so the schools really did a lot of preparation for the DHA to be able to visit on the day and have a successful application with the mother or father present as well as with the supporting documentation required. In terms of the scheduling, Mr Sigama had indicated herself and Ms Van der Berg as entry points to be able to enrich the DHA schedules and be able to affirm it for hopefully June or July.
The Chairperson thanked the DHA for its response. He said that he would be in communication with the DHA, and he was sure that Members would be keen to see how they could work around the mobile units.
Mr Brinkhuis said that he heard the DHA say that it had made contact details available. Where could Members get the contact details?
The Chairperson said that the details would be given to Members but that it was in the presentation. He thanked the DHA and said that if there were any further requests for information, something in writing would be sent to them. He added that the DHA would be invited in future for other matters. He excused the DHA and asked if the IEC was still in the meeting.
Mr Hendrickse said that he was still in the meeting as he was extremely interested to hear the presentation from the DHA. He would certainly follow up with Ms Michaels and her team so that the IEC could, through the MPLCs, coordinate some of the dates that the DHA indicated.
The Chairperson thanked the IEC for its comprehensive presentation and confirmed that they would certainly work together over the next eight months. He was sure that the IEC would hear a lot from all Members. Once the IEC and the DHA fine-tuned their dates, he asked that they let the Committees know so that they could work together and ensure that they got the Province on the map as the most successful registrations, and so that everyone got their IDs, and the elections are free and fair as in the past.
Mr Van der Westhuizen thanked the officials on a personal note. He knew that their task was not an easy one and he knew that the Committees would probably, as a resolution, also thank them. He appreciated what the officials were doing and the challenges under which they often needed to work. On behalf of all Members, he pledged their support for the officials to have a free and fair election.
Mr Marais congratulated the DHA, especially Mr Hendrickse, as he knew him from a very long time ago as the son of Reverend Hendrickse who was a formidable political figure. He thanked Mr Hendrickse for following his dad’s footsteps and asked him to keep in mind his plea for Afrikaans translation the next time it made a presentation. However, what Mr Hendrickse had said in English he had said very well.
The Chairperson said that going forward the Committees would discuss how they would officially handle meetings. The Committees knew and respected everyone’s mother languages, but this was something that the Committees had to get right themselves and not blame officials.
The Chairperson did not know if Members had specific resolutions but said that the Committees would certainly invite the IEC again for further presentations. One of the elements that needed to be touched on at the particular meeting was a demonstration of the new VMDs, how it operated in real time, and just to introduce it to the Committees so that they could have a sense of what the capabilities of the new device was. Again, an invitation would be extended to all Members once the IEC was invited back to the Standing Committee. He thanked the IEC for its role in driving the meeting and the Committees would certainly collaborate with them in terms of when the IEC is invited back. He thanked the officials who made it possible for the Committees to have the meeting today.
Mr Van der Westhuizen proposed that the Committees officially, by resolution, thank the officials from both the IEC and the DHA for their presentations and that they pledged their continued support for them in achieving their goals. He thought that the Committees should also acknowledge that a lot of preparatory work had already been done in terms of the elections which were believed to take place later in the year. In terms of the Covid-19 protocols, he also asked that the Committees acknowledge the challenges and also observe that those protocols have been professionally managed by the IEC during the by-elections this far.
Mr Brinkhuis took the opportunity to thank the Chairperson for organising the joint meeting with the IEC and the DHA. It was known that they had a tremendous task at hand, but he wanted to thank and congratulate the IEC and the DHA for the great work that they were doing. In terms of a resolution, it was known that a lot of people had cell phones. He had seen one of the devices that the IEC had come up with, being the VMDs. He asked if the IEC could think of a possible App on a cell phone to do all the work that they wanted to do through the device. Perhaps an application on a cell phone could be of assistance with the kind of work that the IEC wanted to do. He thanked everyone in the meeting for their contribution.
The Chairperson thought that, from the DHA, the Committees needed to get a coordinating mechanism to get the date for the mobile hand over. As Members were from different constituencies, an email would be sent out to all Members to inform them of any particular dates that were not in the DHA presentation where they would like people to come out to their constituencies with the mobile units. The Committees could certainly work with the DHA and arrange for the new applications and for people to collect their IDs. The Committees would work with the DHA to ensure that it became a reality. He thanked Chairperson America for arranging the session and he thanked all Members for participating.
The meeting was adjourned.
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