Monitoring Elections – Brief 1

The 2009 election is set to be unprecedented in South African history as rival political parties canvas the same constituencies. We call on all South Africans to make the elections work. The right to free and fair elections was won through a long and hard struggle, for which many people fought and sacrificed their lives. We need to respect this. How? By ensuring peaceful elections in which everyone can cast their vote free of intimidation and fear, and where all political parties can campaign free of intimidation and fear.

Elections are a vital part of democracy. With elections we elect a government which has the confidence of voters. Intimidation, fear and violence taint the freedom of the elections process, and are disrespectful of democracy. They can lead to scars in the relations between people which last long after the elections are over. We all need to work towards peaceful elections. We must make sure that we do not allow people to disrupt meetings and rallies. We must not create situations were people are likely to do so. Political parties must not use government resources to further their campaigns, and must obey the Electoral Code of Conduct.

The current climate has been marked by hate speech and comes against the backdrop of contested polls in Kenya and Zimbabwe and now perhaps even Zambia. The recent outbreak of xenophobic violence can leave no one in doubt as to the ferocity and rapid spread of violence through communities where there are young, unemployed youths who could be easily persuaded to partake in violent activities. Xenophobia for example, has been used as a campaigning tool by political parties during election in many countries. African foreigners or immigrants could be victimised and xenophobia can be used to spark violence. If election disturbances and or violence is not addressed rapidly and as close to the local site of tension as possible it can quickly spiral out of control.

The following institutions have been monitored by the Election Monitoring Network (EMN): Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Political Parties and the Police. Some of our findings for this period are recorded below.

1. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)

The IEC remains one of the Chapter 9 Institutions that has played a positive and non partisan role. The Election Monitoring Network is concerned that some political parties want this body to take on a partisan role in the hope that this will help them settle scores with other parties. We are also concerned about the attempts to de-legitimise the IEC and its work in some provinces without any sound justification; we are worried this may be used as a ploy by political parties to reject elections results in the upcoming general election.
The Election Monitoring Network calls on the Independent Electoral Commission to uphold the integrity that has guided its operations and maintain transparency that has been its hallmark. This has enabled credible observers in the past to declare the conduct of our past elections acceptable.  

2. Political Parties
Free political activity
The Election Monitoring Network is concerned about the climate in which the 2009 elections will take place. In ensuring that South Africa has peaceful and truly democratic elections, all those participating should remember that in a democracy, election rallies and other campaigning activities are not an arena where those able to intimidate the most or cause most physical hurt and damage to their rivals are the winners. Tolerance and respect for differences of opinion and diversity of ideas are the essential ingredients for creating better understanding and in democratic elections winners should accept victory with humility and the losers should accept defeat with dignity.
The Election Monitoring Network therefore calls for all political party leaders and supporters to abide by the Electoral Code of Conduct.

Alleged abuse of social grants
There are concerns about the alleged use of social grants intended for the poor as an election tool by certain political parties. The Election Monitoring Network urges government departments to ensure that proper procedures are followed to identify the beneficiaries of social assistance such as state grants and food parcels by following a process that ensures that all those individuals and families who are desperately in need of assistance actually get it.
3. Restructuring of SAPS, its impact on dealing with political conflict
The redeployment of senior personnel by dissolving what was called a top heavy management of police services has led to a lot of dissatisfaction, where some perceived redeployment as demotion.  This has affected service delivery in some hot spot areas.
The Election Monitoring Network has heard reports that in February 2009 police personnel were being transferred from station to station, and this has lead to instability at a time where relations between SAPS and communities should be stabilized.  The atmosphere in most hot spot areas is tense and requires police to be present who have local knowledge and enjoy respect from all sectors of the community.
The Election Monitoring Network feels that that the timing of the restructuring and rationalization process poses a risk of missing critical dynamics in hot spot areas. The network urges political parties and the public to cooperate with SAPS and security personnel. 

4. General

Role of the media
Media has a role to play in the electoral environment and the Election Monitoring Network calls upon the media to provide coverage that is impartial and fair. We also call on the SABC as a public broadcaster to execute its mandate in a manner that is consistent with Electoral Law. We equally call upon political parties to respect the role of the media and refrain from making statements that could undermine free reporting and journalism.

ID books and loan sharks
The Election Monitoring Network is concerned by widespread reports of loan sharks that are using illegal methods by confiscating pension payment cards and Identity Documents (IDs) to obtain security against money borrowed. It is illegal for any unauthorized person to take away and keep someone’s payment card or identity document as these belong to the state and without ID books people would not be able to vote in this election.

 
Background to the Election Monitoring Network
The Election Monitoring Network (EMN) is a network of independent civil society organizations that seeks to play a critical role in stabilising conflict during the 2009 general elections. The Steering Committee of the network is located in the Western Cape and the members include Idasa, Action for a Safe South Africa (AFSSA), South African Council of Churches-WC (SACC-WC) and Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF), Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) and Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Quaker Peace Centre and Black Sash. The Network operates nationally and our work in provinces is coordinated by local partners based in those provinces.

The Monitors play a variety of roles in a broad capacity to participate in elections which includes;
• Election observation and violence monitoring
• analysis
• poll watchers
• conflict resolution
• post election monitoring (especially in a context where coalitions between political parties have to be formed)

See more at Election Monitoring Network

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3 Responses

  1. I noticed that this is not the first time you write about the topic. Why have you chosen it again?

  2. I can tell that this is not the first time you write about the topic. Why have you decided to touch it again?

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