The IEC's top leadership made a show of organisational strength amid worries that potential suspensions could destabilise the organisation.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)'s top leadership presented a united front at the official launch of the 2014 election and voter registration drive.
But, as the shadow of potential suspensions of senior figures hangs over the organisation, vice-chair Terry Tselane was at pains to point out the expertise of the organisation.
The ANC, DA and other major political parties are concerned that disciplinary action or organisational sidelining of IEC chair Pansy Tlakula and possible disciplinary action against the chief executive and his deputy would compromise the stability and credibility of the upcoming elections.
But Tselane has hit back at claims that the three represent invaluable institutional knowledge, and used the launch as an opportunity to trumpet the experience of others in the organisation, particularly the five commissioners at the helm of the organisation.
Listing their experience he said: "Commissioner [Bongani] Finca has been with the organisation for 15 years followed by myself for 13 years," he said, adding: "And commissioner Tlakula who is our chair, has 12 years."
This flies in the face of claims from their critics in political parties that no one except Tlakula has overseen a major election and losing her would be a disaster.
Tselane also sang the praise of the newest commissioner, Raenette Taljaard. "She's playing quite a crucial and critical role in the organisation," he said.
"Apart from the five of us we've got here with us the top management of the electoral commission. Just looking at the provincial electoral officers all of them perhaps with an exception of one or two are people who have run the election since 1999."
Tselane has emerged to the fore of the organisation as Tlakula has taken flack for her role in the procurement of the IEC's head offices. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that there was a conflict of interest by virtue of Tlakula's separate business relationship with the BEE partner in the company behind the deal.
Tlakula has been excluded from the IEC's deliberations on the report and while she and the other commissioners insist she has not been otherwise sidelined, she took a backseat role at Wednesday's launch with Tselane as the programme director. She delivered a short address confirming the voter registration drive date for the weekend of the November 9 and 10, which the Mail & Guardian has previously reported.
Tselane is close friends with Finca and together with Taljaard they have taken a firm stance on the public protector's report. Rumours have emerged that either Tselane or Finca are interested in the top job which is occupied by Tlakula but Tselane laughed off the claims in a previous interview with the M&G.
The M&G has reported that there are fears, particularly among major political parties, that the electoral commission's capacity and skills would be compromised if IEC chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya, his deputy Norman du Plessis and the manager in the office of the chief executive Stephen Langtry were to face disciplinary action as recommended in the public protector's report.
"The Commission has been wrestling with the option of suspending them," said one member of the party liaison committee [PLC], who regularly meets with the IEC. "You're going to take out the chief executive and his deputy: between them they have the greatest amount of institutional knowledge."
The potential loss of IEC chair Pansy Tlakula too has been a source of great alarm for the country's biggest political parties, who are trying to work with the IEC to ensure stability ahead of elections.
The commissioners however – particularly part-time commissioner and former parliamentarian Raenette Taljaard – have railed against what they deem to be unacceptable political pressure on the issue.
Taljaard is said to believe that the public protector's recommendations should be honoured, and that the IEC should not be inhibited in this regard by political pressure or fears of organisational instability.
This has direct consequences for the operational leaders of the organisation who are named in the recommendations: the chief executive, his deputy, and the manager in the chief executive's office.
Moepya, who Tselane referred to as the administrative head of the organisation, presented a detailed operational report ahead of the voter registration drive.
But Tselane also called each provincial electoral commissioner to the stage in a show of organisational strength.
Taljaard used her welcome address at the launch to echo Tselane's point of a wide pool of expertise at the body, and mentioned the appointment of a new manager of electoral operations.