Editorial: The IEC after Pansy

The resignation of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula confirms the resilience and independence of our chapter nine institutions. She quit after many months of instability and a damaging cloud hanging over her head after the public protector’s report on her involvement in a questionable lease agreement deal was released.

The report prompted the Electoral Court to rule that she should go, and it was only after the Constitutional Court dismissed her application to appeal that decision that Tlakula decided to quit. Her actions until this week were those of yet another senior official desperate to avoid accountability. Like some politicians and officials before her, she failed to understand the implications of her obstinacy on the credibility of the institution she ran.

We acknowledge that she managed the IEC outstandingly as chief executive and, subsequently, chairperson – at least until the scandal that opened divisions in the commission. And it is noteworthy that other commissioners at the IEC, led by Tlakula’s deputy, Terry Tselane, to some degree helped to expose what could otherwise have been a major cover-up.

But even though we may approve of the fact that Tlakula has finally resigned and ended this battle, we should also be aware that the aftermath could be costly.

Her successor will have to be a leader with impeccable integrity and not be involved in any IEC factional battles – and must be committed to placing the interests of the country ahead of personal or partisan considerations.

The Electoral Commission Act has established a rigorous system involving MPs, the chief justice, the public protector and the Human Rights Commission chairperson before the president appoints a commissioner.

The integrity and independence of the IEC, like all the other chapter nine institutions, must be jealously guarded and protected. Tlakula’s successor needs to be someone everyone can respect and not a party hack, especially amid fears that the ANC’s rampant majority is slowly eroding at the polls and that the opposition will lobby for one of their own to succeed instead.

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