While Mr Mamabolo has a two-decade long tenure at the IEC and assumes the role of CEO with an institutional memory of the organisation, he has the weighty task of implementing the order of the Constitutional Court’s June 2016 judgment, for the IEC to rectify shortcomings in the Voters’ Roll. This matter arose when several opposition parties took to the Courts to adjudicate their claims that the ANC had manipulated the Voters’ Roll in Tlokwe, North West.

The question of proof of address of voters was the turning point. The Court, mindful of the fact that millions of South Africans live in informal housing, often with little or no access to infrastructure, responded to the IEC’s review application by giving it 18 months to obtain addresses of everyone on the Voters’ Roll after December 2013.

Mr Mamabolo summed up his task when he said after the announcement of his appointment that “the credibility of elections hinges on the accuracy of the Voters’ Roll, the absence of addresses remains a critical risk to the credibility of the election”. To execute this task, the IEC requires an additional R180 million from Treasury.

The IEC has documentary evidence that while the majority of the 26 million registered voters are compliant with the Constitutional Court’s order in respect of proof of address, it is an additional seven million voters whose details are not in the system. This is going to require a massive effort on the part of the IEC to obtain details to satisfy the Court, all in an ever-shrinking time-frame. The use of sophisticated technology – including the IEC’s launch of an online address capture campaign – may be misplaced, with a target audience that most likely lives informally and perhaps transiently too. Perhaps the IEC ought to consider among others a more basic approach of information-gathering using ‘foot-soldiers’, including those who are currently employed by the Department of Public Works’ Expanded Public Works Programme.

In a time of fear and political uncertainty, the unremitting role of this Chapter 9 institution is key as a neutral and independent enabler for free and fair elections. The era of coalition politics has also extended and challenged the role of the IEC in addition to the much-anticipated 2019 National Elections. Mr Mamabolo has the task of steering an important ship through troubled waters.

By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director

{phocadownload view=file|id=42|text=Download the PDF|target=s}