Mashaba accuses IEC of ‘sabotage’ as legal battle looms

Action SA leader Herman Mashaba has accused the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) of a “pattern of sabotage”, aimed at impeding the fledgling party’s ability to take part in the upcoming local government elections. 

Mashaba made the comments at a media briefing on Wednesday morning.  

“This pattern of sabotage … has been a pattern since our attempt to register as Action SA. I don’t really take this to be an oversight — I take this to be a deliberate effort by the IEC to frustrate our efforts to participate in these elections,” Mashaba said.

“We would like to reassure the people of this country that at ActionSA one of our core values is the rule of law. There is just no way that we are going to allow anyone to trample on our right to participate in elections.” 

He said that by omitting Action SA’s name from the ballot paper — and including only its logo — the IEC was reducing the party to a logo, when it had spent funds on marketing itself as Action SA. 

The IEC saying it was unable to change the ballots because they had already been printed was also “misleading”, according to Mashaba. 

“The IEC is doing everything possible to declare these elections not free and fair. They are looking at every trick,” he said, adding that Action SA was the only party that was threatening the governing ANC.  

The party is going to court over the matter. 

In his founding affidavit, Action SA national chairperson Michael Beaumont said that the decision by the IEC to exclude the party name from the ballot paper was unconstitutional and unlawful. 

Beaumont argued that the decision violates section 190 of the constitution, which provides that every citizen is free to make political choices, including the right to form a political party and the right to free, fair and regular elections for any legislative body established in terms of the constitution. 

He adds that section 190 of the constitution enjoins the commission to manage the elections of national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies in accordance with the national legislation, and to ensure that those elections are free and fair 

“The decision is irrational and inconsistent with section 15 of the Electoral Commission Act, which does not require a party to register an abbreviated name. The decision to exclude Action SA’s name from the ballot paper based on the commission’s chosen design of the ballot paper was taken because irrelevant considerations were taken into account or relevant considerations were not considered,” he said. 

The IEC hosted a pledge-signing on 2 October for political parties contesting the local elections. A ballot paper for the cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg were presented without Action SA’ s name. 

Beaumont added that the ballot paper contained only the party logo and candidate’s name. The block for the political party name was empty. 

Action SA members verbally objected to the IEC officials, but they were told that the national IEC offices were responsible for the design of the ballot paper. 

Beaumont said he sent correspondence to the IEC, but that the deputy chief electoral officer, Masego Sheburi, advised that it was too late to remedy the objections, because  printing of the ballot papers had already commenced. 

“The commission insists upon rigid and inflexible compliance with the inclusion of an abbreviated name, even in circumstances where the party’s name is no longer than eight characters. The commission insists on this rigid approach even where the result will be to exclude the name of the party entirely and thereby infringed the right of political parties to participate in and contest elections freely and fairly for voters to be able to make their democratic choices,” Beaumont said.

A ballot paper must be designed in a manner that allows a reasonable voter to give proper effect to their right to vote and identify their party of choice by name, he added.  

“In the case of Action SA, it bears emphasis. Action SA is a new party although it has been actively campaigning since 29 August 2020. It cannot be expected that a voter will be able to distinguish the party merely from its logo alone, particularly in relation to longer-established parties.” 

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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