July 13, 2024

Lawyers Tell DA And Coalition Partners That 69 ‘Spoilt Ballots’ Broke The Law

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DA councillor Mr Cilliers Brink said the party took a strategic decision to mark ballots by indicating who councillors voted for.

FILE PHOTO: DA councillors in Tshwane. PHOTO: Supplied

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PRETORIA: The DA instructed councillors to use numbers instead of a cross while voting for the speakers of the council in Tshwane.

Legal opinion sought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and its coalition partners on Tuesday revealed DA councillors had transgressed IEC voting guidelines when they numbered their ballots.

The votes cast by 69 DA councillors in the election of the Tshwane council speaker were disqualified after being declared spoilt ballots, which paved the way for the election of African Transformation Movement (ATM) councillor Mr Mncedi Ndzwanana as council speaker.

Mr Ndzwanana beat ActionSA councillor Ms Kholofelo Morodi by a considerable margin. The DA had instructed its councillors to mark ballots with allocated numbers instead of a cross to give some indication of which candidate the councillors backed.

The ballots were found to have been numbered from 1 to 69, equaling the number of DA councillors in the municipality. This lifted the veil of secrecy of a secret ballot contravening electoral legislation.

“What the DA did was unlawful. The IEC has individual requirements that if a voter’s identity is disclosed on the ballot paper the vote is spoiled. It was not a clever strategy so there will be no litigation,” a party leader close to the coalition has said.

On the sidelines of the council meeting yesterday, DA councillor Mr Cilliers Brink said the party took a strategic decision to mark ballots by indicating who councillors voted for. The ballots were marked with numbers designated to each DA councillor ahead of the voting process.

Mr Brink said the DA believed the IEC should have allowed the votes. He denied that the DA used the strategy because it did not trust its coalition partners.

A breakdown of coalition partner numbers shows the DA has 69 councillors, ActionSA 18, FF Plus 17 and the ACDP two. If the 69 votes were counted, Morodi would have won by 106 votes. Mr Brink had earlier said the party would decide whether to challenge council procedures.

“All of the votes from the DA were disqualified for the reason of how those votes were expressed. Electoral law is clear that if the voter’s intention is indicated, it does not matter with what marking, if the intention is indicated, that vote must go to the candidate. Unfortunately, the IEC, whose bias we were concerned about from the onset, indicated that because of the markings, those votes were disqualified,” Mr Brink added.

This is the second defeat in council for the DA and its coalition partners and may lead to fresh concerns about caucus direction, especially during secret ballot elections.

Last month the DA lost the mayoral election when Cope councillor ‘Dr’ Murunwa Makwarela, backed by the ANC and the EFF, was elected mayor. At least eight coalition members voted against the party line in that election and endorsed ‘Dr’ Makwarela.

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