South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission Dismisses Post-Mandela ‘Secret Vote’ Controversy

Africa’s Electoral Commission Director General Michael Alweendo says a batch of postal ballots released by the Independent Electoral Commission this week had no links to the so-called “secret ballot.” In a briefing by email, Mr. Alweendo cautioned, however, that it was unclear who sent the votes.

We appreciate the comment from the Independent Electoral Commission. … We want to emphasise that there is no “secret ballot” in postal votes; a voter’s secret ballot is “admissible and public.” … The agency (which) has disclosed a lot of information by the way it has communicated. The Electoral Commission is happy that all requests for information will be given. If we receive complaints from citizens or media, they will be dealt with by the Inter-Ministerial Committee of Inquiry.

Of course, it is always an option if we get complaints from citizens or the media that the intention behind the disclosure was wrong. We will deal with the case and to hear from citizens/media on that. Regarding the suggestions that we should not disclose information, the Constitutional Court (…) addressed that matter in one of the judgments (…) they made it clear that the secrecy of a ballot is paramount and that would be available to any member of the public, including journalists.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Alweendo also said none of the mail ballots had come from any of the known agents of the ruling party. “We are not aware of a single ballot coming from any party’s agent,” he said. “We do not want to be misled. I understand the media’s desire to give you the names and the party affiliations and we don’t want to cause any confusion in the voter-voting process.

“Let me share that data with the media in case you have doubts. We are here to provide you with an open-and-shut case,” he added.

The controversy around postal ballots in recent weeks has been a political distraction, but leaders of the ruling party have repeatedly insisted that electoral officials were impartial and fair.

Like any vote this close, South Africa’s vote is turning into a battle of the networks. The ANC has won 95 percent of the fixed polling stations in the region where an estimated 2.5 million postal ballots were sent out, the Sunday Times of Johannesburg reported, citing a leaked memo by the Independent Electoral Commission.

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