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Defend our Democracy urges political parties to uphold integrity of SA’s electoral processes

Azra Hoosen | ah@radioislam.co.za
13 March 2024 | 10:30 CAT
2 min read

Defend Our Democracy, a civil society organisation in South Africa has called on political parties to refrain from undermining the integrity of the country’s 2024 electoral processes and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The organisation, which launched its Election Watch campaign last November, emphasising the importance of maintaining confidence in democratic processes, now expresses concern over statements made by certain political parties, particularly the MK Party, which include threats against the IEC and the allusion to violence if electoral expectations are not met.

Speaking to Radio Islam, Zaakirah Vadi, Executive Director of Defend Our Democracy, pointed out some instances where individuals wearing MK party t-shirts or speaking on MK party platforms have launched attacks on the IEC, with some even issuing direct threats. She emphasised that such behaviour shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly in light of past experiences with the incitement of violence during the July 2021 riots.

“The IEC has been credited with hosting free and fair elections since 1994, and that is something we want to continue, but we cannot take things for granted. In 2021, a study report suggested that people’s trust in the IEC was at 36%. Given the issues of corruption, we can’t take it for granted that the trust will further decline,” she said.

Both the DA and ANC have been criticised for spinning narratives about potential interference in the elections without providing substantial evidence. President Cyril Ramaphosa warned of foreign interference, prompting the IEC to reaffirm the integrity of the electoral process.

Defend our Democracy deems the DA’s request for foreign assistance for observation work and voter education and the ANC’s suggestion of bringing its own “friends” to observe the elections unhelpful.

Vadi believes that every political party has the right to criticize the IEC or raise concerns, but she emphasizes that the manner in which this is being done is counterproductive.

“When the President speaks about foreign meddling, what evidence does he have for this? And are these methods being taken directly to the IEC instead of being raised openly in the ANC forum, causing panic in the electorate,” she stated.

Political parties are urged to engage constructively with the IEC, conduct voter education, and refrain from fearmongering tactics. They are encouraged to allow civil society to conduct observation and awareness campaigns independently.

Civil society organizations are encouraged to register to observe the elections in a politically non-partisan manner and to register under Election Watch and with the IEC to obtain the necessary accreditation. Vadi believes that this type of observation fosters greater transparency in the process and serves as a deterrent to any planned underhanded activity.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Junaid Kharsany and Zaakirah Vadi, Executive Director of Defend Our Democracy, here.

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