Former elections boss says ‘ill-advised, panicking’ IEC risks losing credibility ahead of elections

Former vice-chair of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Terry Tselane. File Picture: Dumisani Dube

Former vice-chair of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Terry Tselane. File Picture: Dumisani Dube

Published Apr 12, 2024


The Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) latest move of approaching the Constitutional Court to appeal the Electoral Court ruling allowing former president Jacob Zuma to contest the upcoming general elections shows panic and being ill-advised.

These sentiments were expressed by executive chairman of the Institute of Election Management Services in Africa (IEMSA), Terry Tselane, who is former vice chairperson of the IEC.

“I am really, really surprised the commission has taken this route. For many reasons, I think they are really ill-advised. The Electoral Court indicated that they were going to give them the reasons later on.

“I don’t understand the panic, and I don’t understand why they are approaching the Constitutional Court if the clarity they seek is clarity they seek relates to the next elections. The next elections are still very far, and they (IEC) should not be panicking in the manner they are panicking,” Tselane spoke to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Friday morning.

Former president Jacob Zuma. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

“They have got it all wrong, in terms of the interpretation. By the way, I tried to give them unsolicited advice long before this process, but obviously they did not agree with that advice. I am not sure what clarity they are seeking from the Constitutional Court because … only Parliament can deal with these matters.”

Tselane said the IEC is not empowered, in terms of Section 47 of the Constitution, to administer objections in the manner the electoral commission has been pursuing the objection to Zuma’s candidacy.

“I sent them a message and said I think you are making an error here because you are not empowered in terms of the Constitution to do that. What I am saying now is what I have been saying to them privately, unsolicited. Normally I make people pay for this advice but I did it for free because I wanted to make sure they do the right thing,” said Tselane.

He said the IEC has been “ill-advised” on the matter.

“I think they are really ill-advised. If they are not careful, after this process, it is going to be extremely difficult for them to be trusted in terms of managing these elections. I have been at pains to say the IEC must guard its credibility jealously. They must not do something that is going to smear, people start questioning its credibility. I am really nervous and very, very anxious about some of the decisions that they are taking because if anything goes wrong, in terms of people trusting that institution, this country is going to be in trouble.

“I am still trying to plead with them to look carefully at how they take decisions. They must wait for the Electoral Court. The Electoral Court has told them, they told all of us that they are going to give an order and then they will give the judgment with reasons at a later stage.”

Earlier on Friday, IOL reported that the IEC has approached the Constitutional Court to lodge an urgent appeal against the Electoral Court ruling, which found former president Jacob Zuma could run for elections, despite a 15-month prison sentence.

The IEC had disqualified him from standing for public office, based on his July 2021 sentence for contempt of court.

The Electoral Court ruled this week, but has not yet provided reasons, that Zuma could run for elections and have his face on the ballot paper as a candidate for the MK party.

Speaking to IOL on Friday morning, IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the electoral body is seeking clarity from the apex court on an urgent basis.

“That is correct (that the IEC has approached the Constitutional Court). It is more about the candidate list. Yes, so I can confirm that we have approached the Constitutional Court,” said Bapela.

IEC national spokesperson, Kate Bapela. File Picture: Dumisani Sibeko / Independent Newspapers

She said the IEC has filed its papers on an urgent basis, but she said there was no clarity yet on the date for a sitting.

Reacting to the IEC decision, the MK party told IOL that it was disappointed.

MK party national spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said the IEC is going out of its way to exclude Zuma from the ballot.

“The IEC is now entering political space and is now becoming a player and an arbiter. They are now politicising this matter. The IEC’s responsibility is to uphold electoral relations, not to drive an agenda around objections that focus on disqualifying a candidate,” said Ndhlela in an interview.

Umkhonto weSizwe party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

“They (the IEC) have got nothing to lose by not participating or objecting in this matter. Why are they so desperate to get president Zuma off the candidate list? Who is giving them these instructions?” Ndhlela asked.

In a statement on Tuesday, shortly after the Electoral Court’s decision, the commission said it wanted to be furnished with the reasons behind the judgment.

Former president Jacob Zuma with MK supporters. File Picture

On Thursday, Zuma, who is celebrated his 82nd birthday on Friday, told a crowd of supported in Joburg that the IEC was out to get him.

Zuma is number one on the list of candidates for the MK party to Parliament.