Sanef says it is concerned following the arrest of a journalist who voted twice with an intention to “test” the IEC’s fraud prevention system. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) says it is concerned following the arrest of a community journalist who voted twice with an intention to “test” the IEC’s fraud prevention system. 

The forum said it was looking into providing legal support for Etienne Mare, from Mpumalanga, who was arrested on Friday and now faces charges of contravening sections of the Electoral Commission Act. 

Mare had posted a video of himself on social media on May 8 claiming that he was on his way to vote again after he noticed that the ink on his thumb was easily removable. Sanef claims Mare’s intentions were not sinister and that they were meant to test the system and highlight irregularities and failures to prevent people from voting twice. 

“On 8 May, the day of the elections, Mare posted a video online claiming that he was on his way to vote for a second time after hearing from a female voter that she had been able to vote several times. He wanted to test the IEC’s voting systems. In the video, he showed that it was easy to rub off the indelible ink mark on his thumb - a supposed fail-safe system to prevent citizens from voting twice. Mare specifically spoilt this second vote so that it would have no impact on the election results,” said the forum. 

“The South African Police Service in Mpumalanga tracked down Mare and the voter on Friday. Both appeared in the Baberton Magistrates Court on charges of contravening Section 88(d), voting more than once, Section 89(i)(a) intentionally making a false statement and Section 90(2) infringement of secrecy of the Electoral Commission Act, 1996.”

The forum said the difference between Mare and those with ill intentions, was his motivation and concerns around the public interest. It also said the fact that Mare spoilt his vote shows that he had no intention of influencing the elections. 

“Sanef does not believe that journalists are above the law and we are aware of the fact that it is an offence to vote twice. However, it appears that Mare was genuinely operating in the public interest. He resorted to these measures to conclusively test the IEC systems with the purpose of highlighting possible electoral fraud. The fact that he spoilt his second vote is an indication of the fact that he was not trying to subvert the voting process,” said Sanef. 

The IEC had announced last week that a number of people across the country had been arrested for allegations of voter fraud. These elections were marred with concerns over the IEC's security.  A  number of people complained that the ink on their fingers was easily removable. 

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