Transparency, accountability and ethical conduct vital in our election
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Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who became Africa’s first female president and won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, once said: “To girls and women everywhere, I issue a simple invitation. My sisters, my daughters, my friends; find your voice.”
South Africans will find their voices on November 1 and elect councillors for the next five years.
The 2021 local government elections take place in unprecedented and challenging times.
There is no doubt that Covid-19, this major public health pandemic, has had an impact on all aspects of our lives. Consequently, there is no aspect of our preparations for these elections that has not been affected by the pandemic.
However, despite all the challenges Covid-19 has thrown at us, the Commission is ready to deliver quality, free and fair elections on November 1 as envisaged in our Constitution.
On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission formally launched the Results Operations Centre, the ROC, which to us is not just a piece of infrastructure with offices, computers, telephones and kilometres upon kilometres of data cables.
As a nation, the Constitution - which commits us to hold regular free and fair elections - is our rock. This place, famously known as “The ROC, is the amphitheatre of election transparency in South Africa.
It is in that place, on those grounds, that we have announced a number of results of and certified as free and fair, national, provincial and local elections for the past 27 years.
We welcome representatives of all political parties contesting these elections, recognising as we do, their role as key stakeholders in election management.
Through the NPLC we have been transparent, every step of the way, in all our planning for these elections.
The presence of political party agents at every voting station on November 1 and in every aspect of the counting of the ballots - including the signing of each results slip - is a big part of the transparency exercise.
We are honoured and yet humbled by the presence and the role that many local observers, and members of the media will play in these elections. More so, we appreciate their presence at each of the voting stations observing and recording aspects of this election.
There will be a number of localised candidates of these elections also observing the voting stations until the conclusion of the count and results.
And this is so because transparency is crucially important to us as an accountable elections management institution.
Transparency, accountability and ethical conduct are all important values in our work and in these elections.
Transparency is the main reason the IEC is conducting its business in the open. The public will see all the votes tallied and seats allocated on a gigantic screen.
In addition to this, we also have an upgraded website as well as the Guide to Elections publication, which are repositories of information on how the Electoral Commission works and how elections are managed as well as how you, as the citizen, can participate in these important exercises of democracy.
You will be able to follow concluded results on your social media, your broadcast media, your online news, and your print newspapers. All media has direct access to the results as they are concluded for each voting station.
Each voting station result before being posted as a concluded result will be subjected to audit authentication. Each municipality will have a set of auditors doing this work ensuring that the result from the voting station is co-signed by political party agents.
It is also important to us that the Commission, established in terms of Section 181 of the Constitution, accounts, on a regular basis, to you, the people of South Africa through Parliament. At the national legislature, the Commission accounts for the management of each national, provincial and municipal election.
The commission, on a regular basis, also appears before Parliament’s committees to account for its activities. Our books are audited, on an annual basis by the Auditor-General and I am proud to state that this year we received a clean audit. We are serious about our work and the responsibility to manage and deliver free and fair elections.
It is for this reason that we adhere to high levels of accountability in the delivery of our mandate. We also appreciate being held accountable through established processes in our country to ensure we live up to your expectations.
The credibility of our elections is secured through inclusivity and transparency in our counting and results system which provides all stakeholders with the necessary confidence that results cannot be rigged.
Some of the measures in place to ensure this include:
* The capturing and verification of results at each voting station by officials and party agents as well as the posting of those results on the door of the voting station.
* The verification of the results system by independent auditors and political party representatives to ensure accuracy of the capture process.
* Captured results will simultaneously be available to the Commission, political parties, observers and the media at this centre.
* We have a transparent rapid response system to address any discrepancy that may arise
We have put these measures in place because we refuse to have doubts in the results, or these elections and their results to be compromised. More succinctly, no election results should be in doubt or unacceptable to all contestants on account of the electoral process or conduct of electoral officials. Acceptability of the election outcome is a key focus of our work as the Electoral Commission.
Our stance was aptly captured by one of Africa’s greatest scholars and author Chinua Achebe, who said: One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”
This open and transparent process is not only about the integrity of these elections and the results. It is about something bigger - bequeathing, to future generations, an architecture of that will not allow for elections to be rigged.
The great Jomo Kenyatta, one of Africa’s greatest leaders once said:
“Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves architects of the future”
It is important to remind ourselves that while the transparency about how results are captured can lead to excitement, the law provides that only the Electoral Commission can proclaim and announce the results. Our appeal to all stakeholders is that please respect this and wait for November 4, the day on which we hope to announce the final results.
* This is an edited version of the keynote address
*Mashinini is the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.