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CREDIT Paul Jacobson via FoterOn Wednesday, 3 August, South Africans will cast their votes in the nation’s fourth democratic local government elections. Political rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights, while the nation’s founding values include “universal adult suffrage, a national common voter’s roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness”.

The reported incidents of election-related violence and destruction of property cast doubt as to the degree with which the local government elections can be said to be free and fair. Already, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has reported that in the run-up to the August 3 elections, there have been about 50 politically-related killings, predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in a similar vein, notes that political killings are as a result of local conflicts and rivalries.

As such, the FW de Klerk Foundation and its Centre for Constitutional Rights (the CFCR) call for peaceful, free and fair local government elections. The Centre calls for South Africans to afford each other the right to make political choices, which will ultimately ensure the continued existence of a State founded on the values of accountability, responsiveness and openness.

While the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has capably managed elections in the past, it is vital that it continues its important role in the management and ensuring of free and fair elections. Guidelines to free and fair elections, as well as appropriate conduct during the same are provided for in the Electoral Act, which is complimented by the Electoral Code of Conduct. These prohibit both violent conduct, as well as the intimidation of voters and candidates. They also proscribe the abuse of power or otherwise, to influence the outcome of any election. There have already been 28 complaints made to the IEC concerning unconstitutional and inappropriate electoral conduct on the part of individuals, as well as political parties - most notably - the stealing of ballots in Soweto.

The FW de Klerk Foundation and the CFCR further caution that any violence or concerted effort to disrupt or delay the casting of votes constitutes a direct violation of the founding values of the nation and an infringement of the rights of all those citizens who intend to vote tomorrow. Furthermore, the growing political intolerance is a serious threat to the elections, as well as the nation’s constitutional democracy. It is a matter of national and global importance that elections are held in the spirit anticipated by the Constitution and in line with the guidelines that have been articulated by the IEC.

Successful elections, in every sense of the word, serve to confirm and reassure the Rule of Law and the perpetuation of the nation as a constitutional democracy. As such, the FW de Klerk Foundation and the CFCR join calls for a peaceful journey to the polls and remind all citizens to exercise their rights freely, while affording others those same rights. 

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation and the Centre for Constitutional Rights

Photo credit: Paul Jacobson

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