MPs were alarmed on Tuesday to hear that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) still did not have proper addresses for up to 46% of the more than 26 million (26 299 952) people registered to vote in the local elections in August.
“We potentially have about 54% of voters with some addresses, which to us seems fine,” said Chief Electoral Officer Mosotho Moepya in a briefing to MPs on progress towards readiness for the polls.
“As we speak, we are working hard to capture whatever addresses we can get before the proclamation date.”
Moepya said that “46% still seems like a situation we do not have under control”.
MPs feared that the issue over addresses could lead to the elections being postponed or their credibility being questioned.
Moepya said the situation had changed since the Constitutional Court case.
Millions could be disqualified
Before the matter went to court, there were 24.9 million people on the voters’ roll, with complete addresses for only 35%, he said. This had risen to 54%, with work to capture the rest continuing where possible.
The court reserved judgment on Monday in a matter relating to the commission’s urgent application for leave to appeal an earlier Electoral Court ruling that it provide the addresses of registered voters to candidates contesting elections.
Moepya said there was no bad faith in that application – and that had been made to gain clarity.
The commission had filed an application with the Constitutional Court in April, asking it to set aside the Electoral Court’s ruling, which it said could see millions of people disqualified from voting.
The issue is rooted in a November 30, 2015, Constitutional Court ruling that the 2013 Tlokwe by-elections were not free and fair.
The court ruled that, upon registration, all new voters had to provide their address, or sufficient details of where they lived, to place them in a voting district.
Eight million dwellings without addresses
The by-elections were scheduled to be re-run in February this year, but the Electoral Court halted them at the last minute. This was after six independent candidates complained that more than 4,198 addresses were missing from the new voters’ roll.
After that, several other by-elections around the country were postponed.
Electoral Commission chairperson Glen Mashinini told the committee that eight million dwellings did not have an address and many of these did not have a tar road running next to them.
The IEC’s counsel, Wim Trengove, argued on Monday that it was not up to the IEC to verify addresses on a voters’ roll and that the lack of an address next to a name should not make the roll irregular.