The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will not be overseeing the City of Tshwane’s upcoming ward committee elections, as the electoral body is occupied with the preparations for the coming national and provincial elections.
This was disclosed by the City’s chairperson of the Section 79 electoral committee, Dana Wannenburg, ahead of the much anticipated ward committee polls.
The City has been operating without ward committees since the High Court, Pretoria, in 2014 nullified their elections after they had already taken place in 2012 under the then ANC administration in Tshwane.
The ruling followed a legal challenge by the DA questioning the constitutionality of the committee elections on the grounds that they excluded the participation of members of the public.
The process for correcting the unconstitutionality of the by-law was set in motion some years back, but it was delayed on several occasions.
Ward committees consist of a ward councillor and no more than 10 people from the ward, to voluntarily serve for a five-year term.
Amid preparations to relaunch ward committees, Wannenburg announced that three IEC officials won’t take part in such elections.
The IEC officials are part of a nine-member independent electoral management body charged with conducting ward committee elections. Three other members must be from a legal firm and three representatives from independent auditors.
A council-approved report on June 29, 2023, regarding a process towards the launching of ward committees also resolved that the independent electoral management body will comprise nine members.
Wannenburg said: “Upon consultations with the IEC, through the municipal electoral officer, the IEC decided to abstain from active participation in the ward committees processes. The reason for this is attributed to the pressure of preparing for the 2024 national and provincial elections.”
It was, however, noted that the IEC’s absence could present challenges to the effective execution of the ward committees, and could potentially affect compliance with the 2022 ward committees by-law as well as compromise the legitimacy of the committee's establishments.
To remedy such foreseeable deficiency, the council was asked to resolve the IEC replacement with candidates suitable for such positions.
Wannenburg said a council resolution of September 27, 2018, recommended to the IEC the appointment of the city manager as the municipal electoral officer, who was delegated the responsibility to recommend a senior official as his deputy to the electoral body.
Council, he said, authorised the city manager Johann Mettler, to sub-delegate the authority and responsibilities of the municipal electoral officer to the executive specialist within the office of the city manager.
Additionally, the council approved the appointment of two officials as deputy municipal electoral officers for Tshwane.
Wannenburg said: “It is against this backdrop that the council delegated the city manager, in his capacity as the municipal electoral officer, to appoint three representatives to replace the three IEC representatives to form part of the independent electoral management body. This means that the Office of the Speaker will now be able to conclude on the establishment of the independent electoral management body, which means that the City of Tshwane ward committees nominations and elections process will soon be able to commence.”
In 2018, the municipality was on the verge of hosting the ward committees elections when the then Speaker Katlego Mathebe was forced to call off the process after it was discovered that the amended by-law risked excluding other members of the public from participating in the ward committee elections.
The postponement of elections, which had already been advertised, was said to have cost the municipality at least R4 million.