Councillors told to focus on service delivery

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A former ANC councillor in Vryheid, Andre Lotter, has mounted his second legal challenge against the Independent Electoral Commission, asking that all five of its commissioners be removed from office. Photo: S'bonelo Ngcobo

Durban - Politicians should put aside their “own interests” for service delivery to take place, an Electoral Court judge said on Wednesday after months of bickering left a Vryheid ward without a councillor.

These were the parting sentiments of Judge Khayelihle Kenneth Mthiyane when he reserved judgment in the matter between a former ANC councillor, Andre Lötter, and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Earlier this year Lötter, a former councillor in Vryheid’s Ward 22, successfully convinced the court to not only order the postponement of a by-election in the ward, but also an investigation into his claim of electoral fraud.

The IEC’s investigation into the claims led to 1 862 people being removed from the ward’s voters roll, which at the time was standing at 6 200 names, the court had heard.

Lötter had argued that the IFP and the ANC had bused people in to the ward and should therefore be sanctioned for their part in electoral fraud.

After the IEC investigation, Lötter approached the Constitutional Court, saying that the IEC had not complied fully with the order to investigate the allegations of electoral fraud, and that its investigation had been shoddy.

The Constitutional Court referred the matter back to the Electoral Court, which asked for a report on the investigation and submissions from Lötter.

On Wednesday the court heard Lötter’s arguments in respect of his claims that the report was inadequate, in that it did not identify the perpetrators of the fraud, as well as the imposition of sanctions.

“The report fails to bring the perpetrators to book,” Lötter argued before Judges Mthiyane, Willem Wepener and Dimpheletse Moshidi.

He said the commission had done “nothing” to investigate the matter.

Wepener said it was the IEC’s investigation that led to the 1 862 people being removed from the voters roll.

Judge Moshidi told Lötter that in order to impose a sanction on someone, that person would need to be convicted. He said Lötter seemed confused about the responsibility of the IEC and that of the police.

Advocate Paul Kennedy SC, acting for the IEC, its commissioners, its chief electoral officer and it’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial electoral office, said the purpose of the order was to identify the perpetrators of the fraud and remove them from the voters roll.

He echoed Judge Moshidi’s view that there was a misconception by Lötter regarding the functions of the IEC, SAPS and the court.

In Lötter’s own version, Kennedy said, the wrongly registered people were identified, the fraud was investigated and they were removed.

The information gathered was handed over to the SAPS.

“Imposing sanctions is purely speculative at this point. Nobody’s been convicted,” Kennedy said.

Lötter maintained that the investigation undertaken by the IEC was inadequate in that it did not identify the instigators of the fraud perpetrated.

Sibu Ngubane, acting for the ANC, which did not file submissions, said the party believed the investigation conducted was sufficient.

Ngubane said the ANC was keen for the matter to be finalised so that by-elections could take place.

Ngubane said that the IEC was not willing to proceed until a clear order was issued by the court.

Before adjourning the matter Mthiyane said: “For almost eight months, a ward has been without a councillor. There should come a time when politicians put aside their own interests for the people and for the sake of service delivery.”

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