Durban - The IFP would go to court, possibly after the May 7 general elections, as it continues its crusade to have members of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) barred from acting as electoral officials in elections.

The party’s lawyer said on Thursday they would pursue legal action against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) after it rejected the party’s application that thousands of Sadtu members be barred from acting as presiding officers for Wednesday’s elections.

“There is no doubt that we are going to court, it is only a matter of when,” said the IFP’s legal adviser, Lourens de Klerk.

He said the party had decided on the legal route as it had exhausted all the other processes, which involved negotiations and culminated in the letter of demand sent to the IEC on April 17.

The party wrote to the IEC demanding that it remove all Sadtu members from their positions as electoral officials in the May 7 elections. It argued that because the teachers union is aligned with and has been openly campaigning for the ANC, its members cannot be impartial.

The IFP further argued that the appointment of Sadtu members as electoral officers was against Section 82 (6) of the Electoral Act, which states that “an officer may not, whether directly or indirectly, in any manner give support to, or oppose, any registered party or candidate contesting an election…”

In its response, the IEC said that the legislation only disqualifies people who hold political office, while ordinary members of political parties can be appointed electoral officers.

The IEC said that acceding to the IFP demands would mean the commission would have to establish if any of its officials belonged to any formations and whether those formations had associated themselves with any political party.

The commission also said discriminating against an employee on the basis of being a member of a union would be in contravention of the constitution and the Labour Relations Act. However, it stated that any presiding officer was prohibited from campaigning for any political party, and that action would be taken against anyone who did this.

Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, res-ponded angrily to the IFP’s calls, saying the party was just trying to shift focus away from its “diminishing support”.

“This argument is poor because in an election there are many checks and balances, including observers and party agents, so a presiding officer cannot rig an election,” he said.

Mathonsi said members of the rival National Teachers Union (Natu) had also been appointed. “But the IFP will not say anything about that because Natu is aligned with it.”

De Klerk said all the IFP wanted was an independent IEC.

“There are many people who are able and more than qualified who can be appointed presiding officers. There are many graduates sitting at home without any job and they can benefit from this,” he said.

The IFP said this week’s judgment by the Electoral Court was further proof that Sadtu members should not preside at voting stations.

The court handed a ward in Nongoma back to the IFP. This was after the IFP complained that some of the special votes cast in a by-election in that ward were not counted after they were not stamped by the presiding officer. At that time the NFP had been declared a winner.

“If the IEC persists with employing Sadtu officials at polling stations as observers, the May 7 poll will be neither free nor fair,” the IFP said.

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