DA cries foul over 2016 ward committee elections
Durban - The Democratic Alliance has cried foul over last year’s ward committee elections in Durban, saying they were not “free and fair”, and fresh elections need to be held.
In an application which came before Durban High Court Judge Graham Lopes on Monday, the political party has detailed umpteen instances which, it alleges, proves that rules were flouted and voting rigged.
It is seeking an order declaring the elections unlawful and that they be held again within 60 days.
The eThekwini Municipality is opposing the application but has yet to file papers. The matter was adjourned until August 14.
In her affidavit, DA Chief Whip Sharon Hoosen said ward committees - which are chaired by the local councillor - perform a valued advisory role and their elected members, up to 10, are the direct link between the city and its citizens who live in 110 wards.
Legislation states that they should represent the “diverse interests of the ward” and be representative of women.
Notice of the elections and the venues has to be given to community members at least 14 days before voting day which, last year, was set for November 20 with November 27 reserved in case of any problems.
Hoosen said the venues were determined by the Speaker in consultation with the ward councillors and a list was ratified by full council.
However, she said, in many instances these venues were changed at the last minute, without even the ward councillors being informed.
“In some wards, there was no notification at all, in others the notice had an incorrect venue and there were others with insufficient detail,” she said.
In supporting affidavits, community members who wished to be nominated, said they had gone to the venue on November 20, but the election was cancelled because of violence.
The violence was “apparently because some residents appeared to have been misled that they were to be given food parcels”.
The following week, there was violence again and the presiding officer called the election off.
But unknown to residents, the election was reconvened at 14:00. By the time they heard about it and went back, the election was over.
Ward councillor Ganas Govender said he was informed on the eve of the election that the venue was being changed.
“I objected. I raised the issue of the 14 day notice period and said I couldn’t inform my residents in time.
“The new venue was too small….violence broke out and I was assaulted. It was announced that the election was cancelled. But a small group returned later and a committee was elected,” Govender said.
Hoosen said while posters were put up by a private contractor in other areas, in DA-controlled areas they were simply dropped off with the local councillor who was expected to put them up.
“This was a deliberate attempt to deprive people of their right to vote.”
She said those elected had to be fit and proper persons, could not owe money to the municipality or work for the city but in one ward three city employees had been elected.
“They vet after the elections not before,” she said.
She had had reports that people were allowed into the venues without checking that they were on the voter’s roll, that presiding officers were selective in accepting nominations, that political party officials were telling people how to vote and, in some instances, accompanying them to the ballot box “to assist”.
In one ward, a former ward committee member said he had been seated next to an ANC leader who had written down ten names - nine of them ANC members - on a piece of paper.
“He gave the paper to the presiding officer, had a brief discussion, and the presiding officer then announced he had received nominations for ten people and declared them elected.”
She said the party had written to the Speaker pointing out the irregularities but had largely been ignored.
“The municipality has displayed a complete disregard for the rights of the public in this matter.
“It has inaugurated these ward committee members but the public does not know who they are...the elections were fraught with irregularities and need to be set aside.”