Durban - The Electoral Court has set aside the August 3 elections for Ward 23 in Newcastle after it found that voters who did not reside in the area were permitted to cast ballots.
The court also ordered fresh by-elections in the ward won by the ANC three months ago, to be held within 90 days of January 15.
The ruling was made after an application by the former ANC member and councillor, Blessing Mwali, who contended that the elections were not free and fair because more than 600 voters from other wards were allowed to vote in Ward 23, where he was a candidate.
In its ruling, the court found that the Independent Electoral Commission did not comply with a Constitutional Court judgment that there should be a voters roll containing addresses of all voters, among other things.
KwaZulu-Natal electoral officer, Mawethu Mosery, confirmed to the Daily News that the court had ruled in favour of Mwali.
“The court has set aside the outcome of the August 3 election for Ward 23 and called for fresh by-elections in that area,” Mosery said.
He said the electoral body would make further announcements at the beginning of the year, when it would start preparations for the by-election.
In its submission to the court last month, the IEC asked that the court, if it ruled for a fresh by-election, order that it take place outside the festive season.
Mwali, who hails from Newcastle’s Madadeni township, was delighted at the court ruling, saying he had been vindicated.
He said he had taken the legal action upon realising that the elections were not free and fair in his ward, which he previously represented as an ANC councillor.
“The thing is people not resident in the ward don’t know me and could not have voted for me,” Mwali said.
He had represented himself when the matter was heard by the Electoral Court, while the IEC and ANC were represented by advocates.
ANC KZN spokesman, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said they, too, welcomed the court decision. He said the ruling party would encourage residents to register to vote in the wards they resided in, and that they would contest the by-election.
Mwali previously said he had taken the legal action in pursuance of justice, and had been aware that he was putting his life at risk.
“You die once as a soldier... I won’t run away from death. It is God’s creation,” he said.
“I know I am not safe. Anything can happen to me,” the former ANC councillor said at the time.
The Electoral Court ruling on the ward in Newcastle was the fourth made in connection with voters casting ballots in wards they were registered in, despite not residing there.
Similar cases had been adjudicated in Abaqulusi (Vryheid), Jozini and eThekwini (KwaMashu) municipalities.