/ 3 February 2024

Elections won’t be hacked by foreigners, says IEC

Iec Election Poster 5483 Dv (1)
File photo by Delwyn Verasamy/M&G

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said on Saturday it was confident that this year’s elections would not be hacked by foreign adversaries as the country’s voting and counting processes were manual. 

The IEC was reacting to concerns by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said this week that South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice — which found that it was “plausible” that Israel was committing crimes against humanity on Palestinians in Gaza — could lead to “regime change” attacks on the country. 

“The fightback may also focus on our domestic politics and our electoral outcomes in order to pursue the regime change agenda,” Ramaphosa said, while addressing the governing ANC’s gathering in Boksburg, Gauteng. 

But IEC deputy chief electoral officer Masego Sheburi warned that it would be “foolhardy” to believe there would not be any foreign interference during this year’s provincial and national elections. 

“However, the saving grace is that our voting processes are manual. We vote at the voting station, we count at the voting station, we announce the results at the voting station — all this [is done] in the presence of party agents and observers,” Sheburi said.

He was speaking at a media briefing in Centurion, Tshwane, to give an update on the 3 to 4 February voter registration weekend. 

“So, the chances of interference, while we cannot rule them out one hundred percent, we think our system is such that we are not exposed to any risk because there is no transmission of results or voting during the day,” Sheburi added. 

“But we are working internally to fortify our systems to minimise and mitigate the risk of illicit interference in the results announcement.”    

Meanwhile, Granville Abrahams, the IEC’s national general manager for electoral operations, announced that families of inmates could, for the first time, register on behalf of incarcerated relatives using the commission’s online platform. 

Abrahams said section 24(b) of the Constitution stated that inmates had to vote in the district they were imprisoned in, adding that, during the November 2023 and this weekend’s voter registration days, the IEC had registered 3 000 prisoners after visiting 180 correctional facilities. 

“I must also add that inmates do not necessarily have their ID documents with them where they are incarcerated. The [documents] are mostly at home,” he said. 

“And there’s also now an option for a family member to register them online, obviously, instead of going through the expense of taking [ID documents] to [inmates].”

Sheburi lauded “citizens engaged” with the country’s affairs, saying 55 019 new voters registered for this year’s provincial and national elections assisted by more than 700 electoral staff worked at voting stations countrywide. 

In total, Sheburi added, 304 221 people visited stations on Saturday to change voting districts, check their status, or become new voters.

“This early turnout not only sets a positive tone for the registration period, but also serves as a testament that citizens remain engaged with the affairs of their country,” he enthused. 

“We urge voters, who may have had a less than pleasant experience using the online platform to try again. The platform remains open 24 hours a day, until the day on which the date of the elections is proclaimed by the president.” 

Sheburi said the voters’ roll surpassed the 27 million mark, adding that the online registration platform continued to “yield a return on investment” owing to more than 200 000 people using it between November 2023 and Saturday’s registration day. 

He said voters who have lost or misplaced their identity documents, replacement documents were available at the home affairs department.

“The Department of Home Affairs will maintain its network of offices open [on Saturday and Sunday] to assist [that] category of citizens. The commission wishes to extend its profound gratitude to the department for enabling citizens to participate in [the] affairs of their country,” he said.

“For this election, it will not be possible for a voter to vote outside of the voting district at which they are registered without giving [prior] notice to the chief electoral officer of their intention to vote outside their voting district, and also to indicate the details of that other voting district.” 

The details of notifying the chief electoral officer of voting outside the district where a person is registered will be published after Ramaphosa proclaimed the election date, Sheburi said.