Impossible to rig 2024 elections, IEC boss Mamabolo reassures SA

Next year’s hotly-contested national and provincial elections will be free from vote-rigging, the Electoral Commission (IEC) said this week, assuring South Africans no foul play will be tolerated.

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo poured cold water on claims by some party leaders that vote-rigging was highly likely, given the potential of the liberation party losing its outright majority.

Mamabolo disclosed this during a conversation with Sunday World Engage.

This after party leaders, including newcomers such as the African Transformation Congress (Act) leader Ace Magashule, publicly claimed the IEC was not immune to rigging votes in favour of the ANC.

Magashule, a former ANC heavyweight, delved further, even hinting that the globally respected elections agency had, in fact, rigged elections before.

In response, Mamabolo hit back and said the claims were incredibly far-fetched, citing the number of controls within the IEC system that make it impossible to rig votes.

He insisted the IEC system – from voting and counting to the capturing of results – was so rigorous that any rogues trying to muddy the process would easily be caught.

Much as it prides itself on how it handles the elections, he said the IEC does not have sweeping powers over how the results are determined, which it receives at the same time as party representatives and the media.

“What is important is that we, as the IEC, working together with political parties, must ensure the party agents are well trained so that they can execute their statutory responsibilities at voting stations with aplomb based on sound knowledge of the process.”

As a starting point, he said, the ballot papers in SA did not leave the station where the voting happened without being counted in the presence of party agents and observers.“Once the counting is done in the presence of party agents, a results receipt is produced on the spot, along with a present sign to confirm the veracity of the slip.

“Then the results slip moves to the local office of the IEC. A check is done if that results slip is from a voting station that exists so that you do not have a bogus voting station. Then the counting officer and party agents sign the results slip once more. Then that result slip is scanned to create an image of that result slip.

“Once the image is created, it becomes available to political parties at the national and provincial levels, and they can cross-check whether at that station, what their party agent reported to them, and the results slip correspond.

It is only after all this process that the digital capture and transmission of the results happens, an exercise that is repeated twice, and should both numbers not be identical, the station’s results are rejected.

“That is not where it ends. We have secured the appointment of independent audit firms who are going to be deployed in all our local offices and their duty will be to check if that which is captured in the system and the hard copy correspond.”

Mamabolo said parties that do not have party agents across the thousands of voting stations in the country, like the ANC,  should collaborate.

“They could say, ‘you look after our collective interests in that area, we will look after your interests in another area where we are stronger’.’

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