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IEC shrugs off vote-buying allegations

Mandy Rossouw

Democracy think-tank Idasa has taken issue with vote-buying practices leading up to the elections, but the IEC has paid their complaints little mind.

At no other time does a voter feel more loved than during elections.

That is when the bigwigs of political parties don their civic clothes and head out to where you live, wherever that may be. They are not deterred by the foul smells due to sewage problems or the fact that there is no proper road to get to your house.

And, as think-tank Idasa has found, when they do come to visit they bring gifts, some more legal than others.

In public all political parties and leaders uniformly condemn any sort of vote-buying, but several cases of voters being bribed by political parties were uncovered by the Idasa during their monitoring of this year’s local government elections.

Voters in Limpopo in the Capricorn municipality were given contracts to work in the Expanded Public Works programme (EPWP) for five months in exchange for electoral support, Idasa said in a statement this week.

In Emnambithi municipality in Kwazulu-Natal, some voters received food parcels and others were promised jobs in the municipality if they vote for the “right” party. The same strategy was employed by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality (Port Elizabeth) and Mangaung municipality in the Free State.

A job in the municipality is for some voters the biggest prize they could get.

For Marno Neels, a 22-year old unemployed young man from Kimberley in the Northern Cape, the municipality offers everything a man with only grade nine to his name could hope for.

“You get benefits, housing benefits and medical aid. It’s really good to work for the municipality, that is what we all want,” he told the Mail & Guardian while perched on a green electricity box on a street corner in Colville, Kimberley.

With winter approaching, political leaders got creative and offered voters paraffin gel stoves in return for them signing petitions indicating their electoral support.

“The buying of votes undermines elections, which are a fundamental democratic institution. Handouts are not a substitute for good governance that is responsive to the real needs of citizens,” Idasa said.

Although Idasa urged the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to investigate incidents of this nature, the commission has shrugged off the exhortation, saying they could only do so once a formal complaint is laid by those involved.

The list of the complaints the IEC has received, however, does not make for riveting reading.

All of them related to the candidates’ lists where the wrong documentation was given or the deadlines were missed to register candidates.

One party complained it was being “defamed” by a radio presenter and three complaints about candidate nominations by “parallel structures” were brought by Cope.

The IEC told the Mail & Guardian that none of these cases required police investigations and all of them were either dismissed or handled by the electoral court.

So although there was no love lost between the political leaders themselves, they made it clear that although they never write or visit between elections, once the time comes to vote they give voters whatever they want.

For exclusively M&G articles and multimedia on the local government elections 2011 click here:

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