The South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has agreed to investigate alleged contravention of the electoral code of conduct by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The IEC promised to refer the matter to the Directorate of Electoral Offenses for investigation. IEC deputy chief electoral officer Masego Sheburi said the matter has been handed over to their legal team.
“Once we have received the independent evaluation, the commission will review and decide on a proper course of action which may also include referral to the electoral court if it finds there is merit to the complaint,” Sheburi said on Monday.
This came after the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) lodged a complaint last month that the controversial African Global Operations, also known as Bosasa, spent millions of rand to set up ANC election “war rooms” at its headquarters in Krugersdorp, Gauteng Province, over the past three elections. The DA alleged that these rooms have been used by the ANC to campaign ahead of the 2011, 2014 and 2016 elections.
The facilities included a screen wall to track results, computers, cubicles with phones and 70 volunteers. This, the DA said, constitutes contravention of the Electoral Code of Conduct, which states: “No registered party or candidate may abuse a position of power, privilege or influence, including parental, patriarchal, traditional or employment authority to influence the conduct or outcome of an election.”
Bosasa, believed to be closely linked with the ANC, recently went into voluntary liquidation due to business irregularities. As most of Bosasa’s contracts are still alive, the ANC continues to use Bosasa-funded “war rooms” to campaign ahead of the next general election, scheduled for May 8 this year, according to the DA.
“It is high time that the ANC pays back every cent of the money it has received from Bosasa,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane said. The IEC needs to assure South African voters that these ANC-Bosasa “dirty tricks” will not play out in the run-up to the election, he said. “We trust the IEC will investigate without fear or favor, and await the outcome of such investigation,” Maimane said.
The ANC has refrained from commenting on the allegation.
The upcoming election is expected to be the most contesting since the end of apartheid in 1994. The ANC, which has remained dominant since 1994, is facing growing challenge from the opposition parties, particularly the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters.
A poll conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in February shows a decline in support for the ANC nationally and especially in Gauteng Province. According to the poll, only 54.7 percent of those surveyed support the ANC nationally, down from the 62.1 percent the party garnered in 2014. In Gauteng Province, the poll puts the ANC’s support at 41 percent, down from the 53.6 percent it won in the last general election.