The Electoral Commission Forum of the Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADC) on Friday declared South Africa’s local government elections “free and fair” despite some problems during the polls.
ECF-SADC chairperson Justice Mahapela Lehohla, from Lesotho, said the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) had done a “commendable job” in conducting the elections though there were few worrying incidents that needed to be avoided in future.
Lehohla said the ECF-SADC was impressed with how presiding officers had conducted themselves at voting stations and that opening and closing procedures were followed correctly.
“The mission notes that practices and lessons learnt consisted of a commendable independence of the IEC both in law and practice,” Lehohla said.
“The innovative and effective state-of-the-art facilities applied in the results operation centre are in class of their own and are worth emulating.”
Lehohla said the counting of votes was done in front of political party agents and observers, making the whole election transparent.
He lauded the IEC for enhanced security features, saying the accreditation process was “impressive”, and also congratulated the electoral body’s regular live broadcasts in which the results were regularly updated.
Despite this, Lehohla pointed out to a few concerns the mission had observed, saying that they would have brought the election’s credibility into disrepute if serious action was not taken.
“The election materials should delivered on time to avoid delays in the opening of voting stations. Some voters appeared at voting stations wearing party regalia, which is against SADC principles,” Lehohla said.
Lehohla said the mission recommended that the law allowing voters to wear political party regalia during voting day should be revisited. He also recommended that any incident that happens at voting stations be immediately documented properly.
Despite the shortcomings, Lehohla said the mission appreciated the adherence to the legal framework governing elections in South Africa, and the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections in the region.
“On behalf of the Electoral Commissions Forum of the SADC countries, I congratulate the people of South Africa and the IEC, all electoral stakeholders and the government, on the orderly and peaceful municipal elections whose outcome we believe will reflect the will of the people.”
– African News Agency (ANA)