Parties vet candidates to avoid embarrassment

Submitting names of credible people without criminal records and any other record that could embarrass a political party was one of top considerations for this year's elections. 

Political parties that submitted their candidates for Parliament and provincial legislatures gave this a serious consideration and some have introduced vetting methods to avoid embarrassment. 

Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance (DA)'s federal executive, James Selfe, said the party left the onus on the applicants to declare any criminal record or insolvency, which are some of the things the party checks. 

Selfe said the DA has a section in the application form that asks candidates whether they had been declared insolvent, had a criminal record, health considerations or any information that if it became public would embarrass the party or diminish its prospects in elections.

The applicants are asked to give a yes or no response, and if it is a yes, to provide details that support that response.

"If someone declares a criminal record, they are then given an SAP 69 form to list all the criminal convictions you've had and we then look at that."

Removal
Selfe said they took a similar approach with a candidate who had been provisionally sequestrated: they would check the court documents to see whether the applicant has rehabilitated.

Should the party comes across information that the candidate failed to disclose in their application, that candidate is removed from the party list.

The Congress of the People has a slightly different approach.

The party’s national spokesperson, Johann Abrie, said at its national congress in January, Cope resolved to appoint an electoral college which comprises of party elders, academics and party members who have no interest in running for a parliamentary seat. Abrie said any Cope member interested in appearing on the list had to declare their availability by filling in a comprehensive questionnaire and the electoral college would then score the candidates based on information they have submitted.

The same electoral college also conducted background checks and the verification of the facts and qualifications, Abrie said.

Final say
The Congress National Committee [CNC], Cope’s highest decision making body has the final say on whose name gets onto the list.

"The electoral college submits its findings to the CNC, whose members would then score the candidates through a secret voting system, taking into consideration the recommendations of the electoral college," said Abrie.

Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that the ANC took all their candidates through a vetting process using a questionnaire that sought information about their families, businesses, back accounts and criminal records among others. 

Members of the public have until April 1 to object through the Independent Electoral Commission to any name they consider unsuitable to hold public office. 

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