A glimpse into voting malpractice, amid accusations of ‘vote rigging’

South Africans will be casting their votes on May 29. Photographer: Robin Clark

South Africans will be casting their votes on May 29. Photographer: Robin Clark

Published May 26, 2024


With just two days left to the May 29 polls, videos of suspected “vote rigging” have been circulated on social media platforms X and TikTok by uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP) supporters.

In the videos, people are seen moving boxes consisting of bulk material at the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) warehouse in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal.

In a statement, the IEC said the boxes shown in the videos were part of logistical issues.

“We wish to clarify that the videos depict our planned logistical arrangements and storage of election materials as we prepare for the first day of special voting on May 27. These are authorised arrangements for the distribution of ballot papers and other bulk material. The planned security measures were that the trucks distributing ballot papers are escorted by SAPS to the local storage site,” said IEC.

The videos raised alarm over the ethical conduct and transparency of voting systems as some sub-Saharan African countries are gearing up for elections this year.

Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis, authors of The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa, note that election malpractice by governing leaders undermines the ideology and practice of democracy.

The authors explained that election malpractice has become prevalent in most African countries, especially nations that censor their people, practise authoritarian governance with archaic and traditional leadership laws – a single person must sit in government for a long period of time. However, these countries create a fallacy of democratic practices.

“Based on this evidence we argue that popular engagement with democracy is motivated by two beliefs: the first is civic, and emphasises meritocracy and following the official rules of the democratic game, while the second is patrimonial, and emphasises the distinctive bond between an individual and their own – often ethnic – community.

“This means that elections are shaped by – and pulled between – competing visions of what it means to do the right thing. The ability of leaders to justify running dodgy elections therefore depends on whether their actions can be framed as being virtuous on one – or more – counts.

“We show that whether leaders can get away with malpractice, and hence undermining democracy, depends on whether they can justify their actions as being virtuous on one – or more effective – of these very different value systems,” said the authors.

Looking at a sub-Saharan country with a reported flawed voting system such as Uganda, the country’s 2021 general elections inaugurated its president, Yoweri Museveni for his sixth term. Museveni won 59% of the vote against his official contender, Bobi Wine, who garnered 35% of the vote.

Wine accused Museveni of rigging the voting system and of launching violent attacks on anti-Museveni supporters.

Moreover, Voice of America, an online publication, spoke about Tanzania’s flawed elections, alleging spoiled ballot papers of official opposing parties and double voting of the governing party.

This after Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, obtained 84% of the vote, while top contender Tundo Lissu garnered only 13% of votes cast by 29 million registered voters in the 2020 general elections.