The South African elections will be held in May 2014, and the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) chairperson,Pansy Tlakula, is ordered to resign. The United Democratic Leader, Bantu Holomisa, said his party together with other participating opposition parties filed an urgent application in the Electoral Court for the removal of Pansy Tlakula.
The Opposition parties, together with Holomisa, said papers were served calling for her resignation, and they now await further instructions. Opposition parties have given Tlakula until Monday to respond to their request and step down as Chairperson of the IEC.
Holomisa said Tlakula did not respond to their previous requests and considered her refusal to respond as arrogance. The opposition parties are concerned about the credibility of the elections expected within weeks.
IEC management met with the opposition parties calling for her resignation and supporting Holomisa’s party, the UDM, which included the African Christian Democratic party (ACDC), the Congress of the people (COPE), Agang SA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Several other parties joined the call for Tlakula’s resignation but retracted their initial support. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said they were not part of the group calling for action against the IEC chairperson.
The two newer parties, Agang SA and the EFF, have attracted enormous support and have remained committed to supporting the call of Tlakula’s resignation.
During the previous month, a forensic investigation by independent auditors acting on behalf of the National Treasury revealed that the procurement of the IEC’s Pretoria offices was not fair, cost-effective or transparent. The finding stated that Tlakula offered no guidance or informed people what was expected of them in the process.
The Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, released a report in August 2013 and listed grossly improper conduct by Tlakula in the procuring of the premises. Based on the Public Protector’s report, the National Treasury undertook an investigation. Tlakula said the report did not disclose or find any wrongdoing in her undertakings and maintained her innocence. Tlakula secured a ZAR 320 million lease for the IEC head office in Pretoria, South Africa, and according to Madonsela, this violated the commission’s procurement rules. The entire process of securing this lease was administered by Tlakula instead of allowing the relevant departments to manage the proper procedures.
The new Pretoria office of the IEC is owned by a trust that is directly related to Thaba Mufamadi’s company, Manaka Property Investments, who holds a twenty percent stake in the trust. Mufamadi and Tlakula have been romantically linked together. The awarding of the lease to Mufamadi is a conflict of interest and a loss of public confidence, Madonsela said.
Madonsela recommended that Parliament take action against the IEC chairperson Tlakula and the African National Congress (ANC). The ruling party said the claim was not true. The ANC said the action called for by the opposition parties was their desire to delegitimize the May 2014 elections.
Agang SA leader Ramphele said the integrity of the IEC remained a matter of importance, and the people of South Africa have a right to know that its accountability is not tarnished. Malema, the leader of the EFF party, said he did not believe there would be disruptions during the upcoming elections. He said the IEC have always displayed an ethical approach, although he remained concerned about the credibility of the IEC. Malema said the current abuse of management and the elections cannot be separated.
The opposition parties want the IEC to reveal the names of all companies contracted to print and transport ballot papers for the May 2014 elections. Malema said the IEC was solely responsible for this action and stated the importance of requesting all IEC-involved participants in the elections to step forward in order to determine their links to political parties, if any. The IEC responded positively and will publish lists of companies involved with the election.
The involvement of Tlakula in the procurement contract, coupled with the conflict of interest, may not affect the election outcome directly. The accountability and ethics of the IEC are under scrutiny. The lease contract and upgrades for the new IEC head office cost a considerable amount of taxpayer money. Tlakula is responsible for the lease agreement, and confidence from the public is shattered once again. The citizens of South Africa remain committed to a free and fair election – one without disruption and violence.
IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula’s recent actions have cast a vote of uncertainty over the integrity of her department in the upcoming 2014 South African elections. The timing of the legal action brought against the IEC by the opposition parties and the response to this issue can create a more balanced approached for the participants. There is the constant ANC committed, unfazed approach, which spurs on the belief that Tlakula is a true patriot of the ruling party.
By Laura Oneale