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Johannesburg - A team of 275 attorneys and candidate attorneys has been set up to monitor the May 7 general election, the Law Society of SA (LSSA) said on Thursday.
“They will serve as the eyes and ears of our citizens,” co-chairmen Max Boqwana and Ettienne Barnard said in a statement.
“When South Africa was a nascent democracy in 1994, we had the eyes of the world on us. In that first historic election and in the following elections, many international and regional bodies and NGOs sent observers.”
As the country's democracy matured, the perception had developed that South Africa's electoral process was free, fair and transparent.
“We believe that to be so. But as the interest of foreign observers and monitors has waned and turned to other jurisdictions, the onus increases on us to ensure that our elections and electoral processes remain sound and beyond question,” they said.
“For that reason the LSSA's attorneys and candidate attorneys have volunteered their time to serve as observers on election day.”
The LSSA would place trained observers in voting and counting stations across the country, and independent lawyers in the elections results centre.
“They will assess the electoral process with a particular emphasis on compliance with regulations, laws, procedures and codes of conduct,” Boqwana and Barnard said.
“They will also evaluate participation of our people and their understanding of the process.”
Observers would submit reports and the LSSA would compile and present its observations to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) and make these available to the public.
“Through this observer mission we intend to provide support for our electoral commission by supporting and strengthening the integrity of the elections process,” Boqwana and Barnard said.
“We echo the IEC in saying that credible elections are an expression of active citizenship and the free expression of the free will of the people.”
The LSSA's domestic observer mission would be complemented by an international observer mission from the Southern African Development Community Lawyers' Association.