Chairperson of the IEC Pansy Tlakula File photo: Etienne Creux

Johannesburg - IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula plans to ask President Jacob Zuma for a leave of absence following the Electoral Court's recommendation that she be removed from office, her lawyer said on Thursday.

"Advocate Tlakula has taken the decision to institute an appeal to the Constitutional Court to have all these issues finally determined," Leslie Mkhabela said.

"In the meanwhile, she will be approaching the president of the republic to seek his permission to take leave of absence from office while the appeal process is underway."

Several opposition parties approached the Electoral Court seeking Tlakula's resignation as Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairwoman before the May 7 elections.

The matter was postponed, however, until after the general elections to allow the court enough time to make a recommendation.

The United Democratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Congress of the People, Agang SA, and Economic Freedom Fighters wanted Tlakula's resignation, arguing her integrity was compromised.

This followed a report by the Public Protector and a subsequent forensic investigation by Treasury into the procurement of the IEC's Riverside Office Park building in Centurion. Tlakula was chief electoral officer at the time.

Madonsela found, among other things, that Tlakula had a relationship --possibly of a romantic nature -- with the then chairman of Parliament's finance portfolio committee, Thaba Mufamadi.

The Treasury probe found the process was neither fair, transparent, nor cost-effective. It found Tlakula neither gave guidance nor formally informed various people what was expected of them in the process.

Mkhabela said Tlakula had considered the Electoral Court's judgment, handed down on Wednesday.

"She is obviously disappointed with the outcome."

Mkhabela said the judgment contained a number of critical errors of fact.

"It also raises important constitutional issues regarding the removal of commissioners from office."

The IEC said in a statement on Thursday it noted the Electoral Court's judgment. It said the matter was in Parliament's hands and would await the outcome of the parliamentary process.

According to the Electoral Commission Act, a commissioner can only be removed from office by the president on grounds of misconduct, incapacity, or incompetence.

In a written judgment on Wednesday, Judge Lotter Wepener concluded Tlakula's misconduct warranted her removal from office.

The complaints related to Tlakula's tenure as IEC chief electoral officer. In this capacity, Tlakula headed its administration and was responsible for the IEC's financial affairs.

In his judgment on Wednesday, Wepener said the relevant parliamentary committee would need to decide whether Tlakula was guilty of misconduct.

"However, this court is required to weigh up all the relevant factors and decide the question of misconduct in order to make a recommendation."

He found public perception of the IEC's independence was as important as that of the Public Protector, Auditor General, or judiciary.

"The respondent compromised the integrity and independence of the commission in violation of a requirement that such integrity and impartiality must be above suspicion and beyond question."

Tlakula's conduct therefore risked impairing public confidence in the IEC's integrity and impartiality.