Former IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula File picture: Etienne Creux

Johannesburg - Parties in Parliament have welcomed and noted the “inevitable” departure of Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairwoman Pansy Tlakula, following her “ill-advised” Constitutional Court challenge.

Tlakula finally buckled under the pressure and resigned after several months of stalling and almost a year since a damning public protector report.

Tlakula announced her resignation on Tuesday and said she had submitted her letter of resignation to President Jacob Zuma.

“I leave the IEC with a heavy heart and wish to thank the President, the National Assembly and the people of South Africa for affording me the opportunity to serve in one of the most important institutions promoting democracy.”

Tlakula said she believed that in the 13 years she spent at the helm of the organisation she served without fear or favour, and contributed to building an institution that delivered election results that were accepted by all political parties.

“I wish to thank all political parties for the support they gave me throughout the years,” she said.

Her resignation follows the most recent ruling against her on August 13, when the Constitutional Court dismissed her appeal against an earlier Electoral Court decision.

The Electoral Court had found that Tlakula’s misconduct as then-chief executive of the IEC warranted her removal. The Electoral Court has the same status as that of the Supreme Court.

Parliament will now have to kick-start the process of finding a suitable replacement for Tlakula, but it is still not clear who will replace her.

An obvious choice would be her deputy Terry Tselane, but this is not guaranteed.

Her resignation also gives Parliament a little reprieve as it won’t have to consider the Electoral Court ruling and what action to take against her.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Tlakula flouted procurement regulations in securing a R320 million lease for the IEC’s head office in Centurion.

Madonsela also found that Tlakula had a “conflict of interest” because of her associate Thaba Mufamadi, the former chairman of parliament’s finance standing committee.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, who led the charge against Tlakula, said he noted the resignation.

“She has at last seen the light, but it is a pity that she was forced to do so at great cost to the government and political parties. There are now no more excuses; the Electoral Commission must immediately implement all the findings of the public protector, including those that fingered certain IEC officials,” said Holomisa.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said his party noted the development.

“(DA federal chairman) James Selfe was quite involved in the matter. But it was an inevitable outcome given the public protector’s findings and her (Tlakula) ill-advised court case. It’s also a good thing because it created a precedent that the only way to challenge the public protector is in a court of law,” said Steenhuisen.

He said this should serve as a reminder to people in her position who are “grappling” with damning findings by the public protector. He said the selected process for her replacement is a “very complicated” one and is not guaranteed to go to her deputy.

The EFF also welcomed her resignation. “Her resignation has saved Parliament the trouble of having to remove her to restore public trust and integrity to the institution of the IEC,” said spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

The ANC thanked Tlakula for her contributions towards building a united country.

Spokesman Zizi Kodwa said Tlakula had served the people of South Africa with distinction and dedication over her tenure.

“As a result of the hard work by advocate Tlakula and her team, the IEC has consistently delivered credible, free and fair elections. Their sterling work has been recognised as such not only in SA but beyond our country's borders and the world,” he said.

The ANC’s spokesman in Parliament, Moloto Mothapo, said the process to replace Tlakula was clearly articulated in the Electoral Commission Act.

“It has to be done by Parliament itself. The Electoral Act explains the filling of vacancies. But we note the resignation,” said Mothapo.

Members of the IEC are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Assembly, following nominations by an inter-party committee.

He said Parliament won’t be required to consider the Electoral Court matter since she tendered her resignation.

The IEC said it noted the resignation.

“Her resignation opens the way for the commission to begin closing a particularly challenging and tumultuous period in the electoral commission’s history and to move forward as an institution,” said the IEC.

Political Bureau and Sapa