South African Electoral Commission Chief: “Church must help to clarify the role of the electoral commission”

Back in 2019 given the prevailing electoral environment of the time the SACBC had made an appeal that each citizen has a “grave responsibility to create the environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party that they choose, without fear of violence and intimidation.”

South Africa is now in a largely different socio-political environment, and to assess the readiness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the upcoming local municipal elections, 01 November 2021, the SACBC’s Justice and Peace Department invited the Chief Electoral Officer of the IEC, Mr Sy Mamabolo, to a conversation on the afternoon of the 6th October 2021. Another aim of this conversation was to understand how the Church is going to play its observer role under the current covid-19 situation. The attendees of the meeting were the representatives of Justice and Peace from various dioceses of the SACBC.

In his opening remarks Bishop Victor Phalana, the Chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, noted that the IEC is under a strict scrutiny and adding that as South Africans try to acknowledge and respect the IEC it is the duty of the same IEC to correct their mistakes as soon as possible and bring the nation into their confidence by explaining what is happening. He said as Justice and Peace they will be encouraging people to go and vote but may not have answers to the questions that people have regarding some situations concerning the elections, hence the importance of the IEC to clarify outstanding issues.

Before addressing questions and concerns Mamabolo began by making a presentation of the current electoral ecosystem in which the elections will take place by showing the key statistics of the electorate, candidates and the logistical preparedness of the IEC. There are over 26 million people who have registered to vote, with women registering a higher percentage. Another key detail highlighted by Mamabolo is that in this coming elections in the interest of the protection of private information the identity numbers of voters will be redacted.

The thorny issue of an alleged unfair treatment and favouring of other parties by IEC was tackled by Mamabolo asserting that the IEC cannot make arbitrary and adhoc arrangements for any political party in an environment where everyone has to be treated equally. “The IEC must consider matters in line with the constitution and in line with the law”, affirmed the Chief Electoral Office.

An issue was raised concerning the hotspots for violence in the elections to which Mamabolo indicated that they have intelligence on such areas and noted that, “A significant majority of issues relate to service delivery protects. People who have grievances about the quality of the services they are receiving are directing their anger towards the electoral commission and its processes.”

“The Church in its prophetic role has got to call for calm”, said Mamabolo also appealing that the Church must help to clarify that certain of these issues are outside of purview of the electoral commission. This was in response to what could be the role of the Church in addressing the threat of possible violence during the elections.

It was on this note of service delivery later on that Bishop Phalana, after thanking Mamabolo, based his closing remarks. He said many people are dissatisfied and disgruntled as a result of lack of services and it is unfortunate that the IEC sometimes undeservedly gets the flack that. The Bishop appealed to the political parties to stop exploiting the masses by making promises every time there are elections and never come back to fulfil those promises. On that breath he suggested that maybe the time has come for a strict criteria of admitting candidates for elections in order to avoid just any person who because of his wealth or fame thinks he qualifies to stand for elections, without knowledge and skills.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Sy Mamabolo, is known in another capacity in the Catholic Church as he is a permanent Deacon in the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg. This conversation with the Chief Electoral Officer was also broadcast life of Radio Veritas South Africa.

For more details from the meeting click here



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