Electoral court to hear full inquiry on IEC’s Tlakula

The Electoral Court ruled on Tuesday that a full inquiry would be heard in an application seeking the resignation of IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula.

"We are of the opinion that the matter needs further clarity," Judge Lotter Wepener said.

The court – sitting in the high court in Johannesburg – would hear the inquiry on Friday at 10am. This gave Tlakula sufficient time to file the necessary affidavit, he said.

The court was hearing an application by opposition parties to have Tlakula resign as Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) chair ahead of the May 7 national elections.

The parties are the United Democratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Congress of the People, Agang SA, and the Economic Freedom Fighters. The application follows a forensic investigation by the national treasury on the procurement of the IEC's Riverside Office Park building in Centurion.

The probe found the process was neither fair, transparent, nor cost-effective. It found Tlakula did not give guidance or formally inform various people what was expected of them in the process. Tlakula has maintained she was not accused of corruption in the report.

The treasury's report followed a recommendation by public protector Thuli Madonsela in her own report into the matter, released in August 2013. The court spent Tuesday listening to arguments from the opposition parties and Tlakula on the urgency of the application.

'Not enough time'
Daniel Berger SC, for Tlakula, argued that there was not enough time for her to file an affidavit in response to the application. "She will have to leave the commission to respond — it's undesirable and unpractical," he said. 

"To formulate an affidavit of this magnitude is a huge task. She doesn't have to be put through that."

Berger said the court should deal with the matter after the national elections which would give Tlakula enough time to respond.

However, Wepener highlighted the importance of the matter and told Berger that it was a "serious matter" and if it required a person to stand back and deal with it, they should.

David Unterhalter SC, for the political parties, told the court it would be a misconduct for Tlakula to remain in her office for the upcoming national elections. "You need to make a recommendation that she simply cannot continue to occupy this office," Unterhalter said.

"The matter is urgent because the looming election makes it necessary, where parties believe that the commission is headed by someone who is not suitable."

Unterhalter added: "If the election comes and goes and this person presides over that election, we have done a disservice to South African citizens." – Sapa

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