Delivering free and fair elections

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

With 30 years of experience in running elections in the country, the Electoral Commission (IEC) has earned itself an impressive track-record and reputation for ensuring that this process is free and fair.

Established in 1994, the IEC manages free and fair elections at all levels of government. Although publicly funded and accountable to Parliament, the commission is independent of government.

As the IEC finalises its preparations for what is stated to be the most contested elections in the history of the country, government has assured South Africans that the IEC is again set to deliver credible elections.

“As a nation we have credibility in running free and fair elections. The IEC has 30 years of experience. With the experience that the IEC has gained over the years, they have learned lessons in tightening controls as well as improving the systems and processes,” Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Acting Director-General Nomonde Mnukwa said in an interview with SAnews.

South Africans will once again exercise their democratic right to vote on 29 May 2024 as the country holds its seventh democratic elections. This year marks 30 years since a large majority of South Africans stood in long queues to vote in a democratic election for the first time.

South Africa’s Constitution protects the rights to free, fair and regular elections. As such, government has put in place measures to ensure the elections are conducted in a safe and secure environment.

“We are a nation that believes our Constitution is the supreme law and has to be respected. We will have law enforcement officers that will make sure that citizens, officials working at voting stations and the public infrastructure utilised for voting are protected,” Mnukwa said.

She emphasised that no one has a right to intimidate and prevent others from exercising their Constitutional right to vote.

The Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security (JCPS) Cluster has declared that it stands ready to execute its mandate of protecting the public, the country’s strategic installations and infrastructure during the election period.

WATCH: Live stream JCPS cluster briefing on safe elections

Members of the public have been urged to report any crime related to elections to their nearest police station or IEC offices.

A protocol has been established between the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South African Police Service (SAPS) Detectives and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prioritise all election-related crimes.

Prosecutors are standing ready to prosecute offences such as electoral fraud and corruption, removing or defacing political party and campaign posters, interfering with the duties of the electoral officials as well as forcing anyone to vote.

READ I Government urges South Africans to vote in the upcoming general elections

Meanwhile, Mnukwa said no one has the right to use social media and electronic platforms to perpetuate fake news, misinformation, disinformation and/or incite violence.

In an effort to ensure the public consumes credible news, the Acting Director-General said government is releasing infographics that provide a guide on reporting fake news.

“When assessing if news information is credible, you should look at the content and determine the source of the content. Is it coming from a credible person or organisation? Is it new information or has it been recycled?

“Sometimes news that has been in the public domain in previous years is presented as new information in a different context. We have Google search, which allows one to check if the content has been covered in the past.”

Mnukwa asserted that “readers can also look out for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as well as supporting sources. Find out if other sources are running with the same information or similar. If there is none, that is a red flag.”

She advised the public to check if the headline in a story matches the information that is present in the story.

“If a video has been posted, you can check whether the voice and the mouth are moving at the same time. People can report fake news on social media as social media platforms have channels to report fake news,” she said.

The JCPS Cluster has warned the public against using social media and electronic platforms to send threatening messages; of inciting violence; causing harm to others and destroying public infrastructure in the run up to, during and after the elections, as they will be charged.

“When an individual creates a video or shares a post to the public and where the post contains words, speech or conduct that may encourage others to commit public violence, the aforementioned post will make one guilty of the offence of inciting public violence and police will not hesitate to track the person down and hold them accountable.

“We urge the public to exercise caution before sharing the information with others. Ensure that you double check the accuracy of the information and be aware of the unintended consequences of your actions. Members of the public should report any inflammatory statements to law enforcement agencies,” the JCPS Cluster said. –