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Judgment reserved in IEC's Tlakula case

Naledi Mailula

Judgment in the case against IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula has been reserved after the court heard she made an "honest mistake".

IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula. (Paul Botes, M&G)

It was the “worst possible thing” to have the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) connected to any politician, the Electoral Court heard on Friday.

This was the submission of, David Unterhalter SC, for the United Democratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Congress of the People, Agang SA, and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Having the IEC connected to a politician amounted to a conflict of interest, Unterhalter said. He was submitting his final arguments to the court sitting in the high court in Johannesburg.

The five parties want IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula removed because she did not follow due processes in the procurement of the IEC’s premises in Centurion, Pretoria. A forensic investigation by the treasury found that the procurement of the Riverside Office Park was neither fair, transparent, nor cost-effective.

The treasury investigation followed a recommendation by public protector Thuli Madonsela in her own investigations into the matter. Madonsela found Tlakula had a relationship, possibly of a romantic nature, with the chairperson of Parliament’s finance portfolio committee, Thaba Mufamadi. He was a shareholder in Abland, which owns the commission’s current premises.

“If you happen to be the CEO of an electoral commission, you can’t be in a business relationship with someone who is a politician,” Unterhalter said. He said this was a compromised relationship.

‘Honest mistake’
Daniel Berger SC, for Tlakula, has told the court his client had made an “honest mistake”. He asked the court to take into consideration that she made this mistake while still serving as the IEC’s chief executive, not while in her current position. Berger contended the procurement deal had not affected how she conducted her duties.

Unterhalter argued in response: “Tlakula had a duty to disclose. Just because she didn’t stand to derive financial gain does not make the relationship okay.”

In 2010 the IEC published a document on its tender processes, in which it indicated its staff had been trained in the subject. This might mean she willingly ignored the procedures, Unterhalter said.

Berger said he was unaware of this and could not argue on it.

Justice Lotter Wepener gave Berger until Tuesday to produce a written submission in reply.

Judgment was reserved. – Sapa

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