Ordinary citizens and civil society groups have an opportunity to protect the integrity and credibility of next year’s watershed elections. That’s through Election Watch – a campaign that seeks to observe the electoral processes before and after the elections. Election Watch aims to ensure the overall success of the elections through educating and mobilizing South Africans to be a part of the election process.
Civil society groups will be registered and trained as election observers. This is to ensure that the outcome of elections reflects the will of the people. As the nation counts down to next year’s crucial polls, civil society organisations are also doing their part to ensure that they protect the integrity and credibility of the elections.
Defend Our Democracy, together with other civil society organisations have launched Election Watch, a campaign to mobilize volunteers to register as election observers. Election observers will not be replacing the work of the electoral commission but will be working hand in hand with it.
“Election observation is important; it gives credibility to the election process. Election observers work as the ears and eyes of the commission. The elections are about the will of the people, and therefore observers are there as auditors of the process. To make sure that the processes are followed, that everything goes according to plan, that there are no malfeasance with the process. And that incidents of irregularities are either minimized or completely eliminated. Another important element is that once that has happened, it inspires confidence in the electoral process, it gives legitimacy. Because it would’ve been observed by people who are credible,” says Terry Tselane, Executive Chairman: Institute of Election Management Services in Africa.
Civil Society groups say election observers at next year’s elections will be crucial in ensuring that the bar is set high in terms of observing and monitoring the polls.
“In terms of laxity previously, I think one area we have noted from election observation work previously is that election observers are given a book to tick off if the voting station does not open on time or if a ballot box is closed at the end of the day and sealed. That information is collated amongst us after the elections and sent to the IEC to note for the next elections. The different factor in this particular campaign is that where there is internet connectivity is almost immediate and where there is no internet connectivity, at least within the next three hours, you can go back to your civil society idiots or public library,” says Zaakirah Vadi, Executive Director: Defend our Democracy.
Asked if political parties can be held accountable through Election Watch, this is what civil society had to say.
“It would be a sad day if voices of civil society do not count. In other words, if we are building a democracy where the voices of people in whatever formation they find themselves if that give doesn’t go then we have a bigger problem than we imagine,” says Reverend Moss Ntlha, Defend our Democracy.
The campaign is already under way and will end after next year’s elections.
Video: Defend Our Democracy Movement launches Election Watch campaign