Independent Electoral CommissionThe Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is a permanent body established in terms of the Electoral Commission Act of 1996 to promote and safeguard democracy in South Africa. It is a publicly funded body and is accountable to Parliament, but is independent of government. The IEC has five full-time commissioners, appointed by the President, whose brief is to deliver regular, free and fair elections at all levels of government Ė national, provincial and local. This it achieves by:
- Dividing the country into voting districts;
- Making logistical arrangements for elections;
- Registering eligible voters;
- Ensuring the smooth running of voting; and
- Counting, verifying and announcing the results of elections.
What has the IEC achieved so far?The IEC has successfully conducted two general elections: the country's first democratic elections in 1994, and the 1999 elections. It also managed the 1995 and 2000 local government elections, as well as a number of local by-elections. Prior to the 1994 elections, the IEC embarked on an untested voter registration exercise. Despite the fact that the majority of South Africans had never voted before, their enthusiasm, and the IEC's efficiency, saw 18.4 million South Africans registering as voters in nine days - more than 80% of all eligible voters in 14 650 voting districts. In the run-up to the 1999 elections, the IEC developed a satellite-based Wide Area Network to 526 locations around the country, opening direct communication channels to local authorities, including rural areas where telecommunications infrastructure was lacking.
How does our electoral system work?Parliamentary elections are held every five years. Anyone aged 18 and over and who has registered on the Votersí Roll is entitled to vote. South Africa uses a proportional representation voting system based on political party lists at the national and provincial levels. A registered political party receives a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes cast for it in the election. Voters donít vote for individuals, but for a political party, which decides on members to fill the seats it has won. In the 1999 elections, voters cast two ballots: one for the election of the 400 members of the National Assembly, the other for the election of the 430 members of the nine provincial legislatures.
Am I registered to vote? (and if so, where?)If you're on the Voter's Roll, you're registered to vote. You should check the Roll to see if you're registered and to make sure your details have been correctly entered - in particular, that you're registered to vote in the area in which you live (your home area, the area to which you return after temporary periods of absence). To check the Voter's Roll online, follow this link. You can also inspect the Voter's Roll at the office of the municipal electoral officer in the voting district where you live - see the IEC contacts box on the right.
Where and how do I register to vote?You can apply to register only in the voting district in which you live or to which you regularly return after temporary periods of absence. You can register when you turn 16 years of age, although you can only vote when you are 18. You can register at the office of your nearest municipal electoral officer during office hours (see the IEC contacts box on the right). In order to register, you must:
- Apply for registration in person;
- Be a South African citizen; and
- Possess a valid bar-coded identity document or a valid temporary identity certificate.
Where do I vote?You can only vote in the district for which you registered - your name will only appear only on that part of the Votersí Roll devoted to this district.
How are voting districts determined?The IEC uses a wealth of information to work out voting districts, including information from the surveyor-general, the department of land affairs, and Statistics South Africa. Prior to each election, the IEC inspects maps of municipality voting districts in order to align voting districts with local geographic, demographic and political changes that may have occurred since the previous election. Together with political party representatives, the IEC then locates voting stations for each district. The geography of voting districts is also aligned to the country's new statutory boundaries, as determined by the Municipal Demarcation Board.
What is the voting procedure?Voters queue outside their voting station entrance, and their names are checked against the Votersí Roll as they enter the station. To prevent cheating, a voterís thumb is examined under an ultra-violet scanner for traces of the indelible ink that is applied to everyone who has voted. In a typical general election, voters are then issued with two ballot papers, one to elect members of the National Assembly, the other to elect members of the relevant provincial legislature. Each ballot paper has a list of all registered political parties contesting the elections. Alongside each party name is the photograph of its leader, the partyís logo and a block in which voters can make their mark. Each voter enters a private cubicle to cast their vote. A voter is allowed to make only one mark on each ballot paper for a party of their choice. Only a tick or a cross is acceptable in the appropriate box next to the chosen party. A mark anywhere else will spoil the ballot paper and so nullify the vote. Voters do NOT have to vote for the same party for the National Assembly and their province's legislature, though they can do so if they wish. After making their choice, voters deposit their ballot papers in a sealed ballot box and leave the station.
How does the IEC ensure that elections run smoothly?The IEC is responsible for all the logistics of running elections, include setting up voting stations in the most remote rural areas, installing telecommunications facilities such as telephones and fax machines, and setting up a computer network to link all voting stations. More importantly, however, are the preparations that the commission puts into the holding of elections. Thousands of officials - presiding officers, counting officers, volunteers and monitors - are trained for specific tasks and posted at voting stations on election days to carry out these tasks.
How is the fairness of elections determined?The Electoral Act of 1998 makes specific provision for accrediting neutral observers for South African elections. The 1999 elections, for instance, were observed by about 11 000 neutral observers, 369 of whom were from abroad. The international observers included organisations such as the Organisation of African Unity, the European Parliamentarians for Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community. The United Nations Electoral Assistance Division helped the IEC with co-ordinating the international observers, while the South African Council of Churches co-ordinated the local observers. Only organisations can apply to the IEC to observe elections. Observer missions compile a report and announce their findings about the conduct of the elections and whether the poll was free and fair. In addition, political parties contesting the elections are entitled to have monitors at voting stations to ensure compliance with voting procedures. Party monitors and observers also keep a watchful eye on the counting process after the close of the vote. SAinfo reporter
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Contact the IEC
Apart from the IEC's head office and provincial offices, listed below, you can search online for your nearest municipal electoral officer at the IEC contacts web page. Head Office Election House Riverside Office Park 1303 Heuwel Avenue Centurion Tel: (012) 622 5700 Fax: (012) 622 5784 Eastern Cape The Mansions 14 Ganteaume Cresent Quigney East London Tel: (043) 709 4200 Fax: (043) 743 4784 Free State NRE Building 161 Zastron Street Tel: (051) 401 5000 Fax: (051) 430 4845 Gauteng 1st Floor A(-Block) EmpirePark 55 EmpireRoad Parktown Tel: (011) 644 7400 Fax: (011) 644 7448 KwaZulu-Natal Westville Civic Centre Main Building William Lester Drive Westville Tel: (031) 279 2200 Fax: (031) 279 2226 Limpopo 5 Dimitri Crescent Platinum Park Bendor Polokwane Tel: (015) 297 3921 Fax: (015) 297 2506 Mpumalanga Nelplex Building 13 van Rensburg Street Nelspruit Tel: (013) 754 0200 Fax: (013) 753 2564 North West Protea Office Park 103 Sekame Street Mmabatho Tel: (018) 391 0800/5 Fax: (018) 391 08512/3 Northern Cape Block 4 Mornridge Offices Cnr. Kekewich & Memorial Road Mornridge Park Kimberley Tel: (053) 838 5000 Fax: (053) 831 8095 Western Cape The Bridge 1st Floor Unit 4 304 Durban Road Belville Cape Town Tel: (021) 910 5700 Fax: (021) 910 4965