Motlanthe urges election managers to promote democracy

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chris Bathembu

Magaliesburg - Promoting regular and credible elections in SADC countries remained crucial in deepening democracy in the region, Deputy Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday.

"We need to work hard to ensure that the independence and impartiality of the electoral management bodies is entrenched so that they can be trusted to serve our people without fear, favour or prejudice," he said on the first day of the annual General Conference of the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.

"Contrary to prophets of doom in certain parts of the world regarding democratic values in Africa, we have proven as the region that working together under the principle of self-determination and sovereignty, we can create conditions of sustainable democracy for the benefit of our people," Motlanthe said.

Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC is an independent entity which facilitates co-operation between the electoral authorities of countries in the region. It strives to promote democratic values and free, fair and transparent elections in SADC countries. Delegates included representatives from countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia, among others.

In opening the conference earlier, South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission chairperson, Brigalia Bam, urged the more than 50 delegates to ensure the region continues to claim its "rightful place" in the continent's democracies.

Bam said while the majority of the SADC countries currently enjoy relative political stability, which provides an ideal opportunity to promote democratic development in the region, much still needed to be done to strengthen transparency and democracy in most parts of the region.

"We are all aware that we have a task at hand. To conduct free elections, countries faced immense challenges... each election presents to us specific challenges and yet there is no doubt on the role elections play to regulate democracy in our countries. If not properly managed such elections can destroy our lives," she said.

SADC countries needed to further look at ways to strengthen the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power post elections, she added.

The conference, which has been running for the past 13 years, afforded members an opportunity to learn from each other about what it means to be an independent electoral commission that can manage credible elections.

Motlanthe said while in the past two decades Africa has witnessed systemic shifts in managing elections with the arrival of new democracies like South Africa, the continent still grappled with many challenges.

"The first challenge is that of ensuring that we continue to entrench democracy in our countries; understanding that a democratic culture takes years of painstaking work to build and entrench as a culture so that it becomes second nature."

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