Mbombela tells IEC not to erect voter registration posters

The posters encouraging people to register to vote, set up by the DA and removed by Mbombela Local Municipality (MLM) last week, have caused a furore.

Workers transported by vehicles branded as officially belonging to MLM were photographed removing the posters bearing the DA colours and logo and informing voters to register to vote in the local government elections.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will have a voter-registration weekend on March 5 and 6.

The municipal elections are expected to take place between May 18 and August 18. The date had not yet been set in the Government Gazette by the president, Mr Jacob Zuma.

On February 8 the South African Local Government Association (Salga) had written to all municipalities, requesting that existing by-laws pertaining to election posters be relaxed to accommodate all political parties in the run-up to the elections.

Salga requested “all municipalities to accommodate political parties with regard to their outdoor advertising by-laws, in particular to relax the said by-laws for a reasonable time leading up to the said elections in order to allow political parties to erect the necessary election posters”.

It relates to the limitation on the number of posters, the payment of deposits and prohibitions on the areas of display of posters.

But MLM is having none of it. Not only did the municipality remove the DA’s posters, it also issued the IEC with a notice that it must please remove its own posters.

The organisation running the election and registration of voters had not attempted to obtain MLM’s permission to erect politically neutral posters informing the populace that people could register, or reregister to vote in the ward in which they live.

Mr Sibusiso Nkosi, spokeman for the IEC in Mpumalanga, said they had been served with a notice by MLM last week. He confirmed that the municipality was the only one which had requested the IEC to do so.

According to Nkosi, they had written to the municipality requesting permission to erect them.

election poster iec

Mr Steve Schormann, chief whip of the DA, the official opposition in Mbombela council, said, “If you don’t tell people to register, nobody knows about it, and this R1 billion election becomes a waste of time.”

It is important that voters register in the ward in which they live. Unlike in the general elections, people will only be allowed to cast their votes where they are registered as they are electing a councillor who will represent them in the municipal council for the next five years.

The municipal demarcation board routinely reconfigures ward boundaries according to registered voters in an area between elections, but with Mbombela and Umjinidi local municipalities set to merge into one entity on the day of the elections, some ward boundaries have changed more than might be expected and voters might be required to vote at a different voting station without having moved house in years.

Nkosi said only a valid ID was needed to register or reregister in a ward, and not a proof of address, but prospective voters would be required to supply an address verbally.

“Ward representatives and party observers will be present in case anybody tries to fraudulently register in a ward in which they do not live,” he explained.

Mr Jo Koster, DA councillor who sits on the IEC’s local co-ordinating forum, says the misunderstanding was due to MLM not having had an active municipal electoral officer for years.

Mr Joseph Ngala, spokesman for MLM, said the municipality could not sumararily implement the request – it has to be approved by the municipal council first.

“The IEC and political parties should have waited for us to imform them that the by-laws have been relaxed, or they should have at least enquiried about it.”

A special sitting of council has been scheduled for tomorrow to consider Salga’s request.

  • Read more:

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Mireille de Villiers
Journalist

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