• ANC Culprit in Voter Intimidation - Report

    The African National Congress (ANC) is the chief transgressor when it comes to perpetrating acts of intimidation against members and supporters of opposition political parties in the run-up to the May elections.

    A report by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) paints a grim picture of politicians acting with impunity by manipulating voters and the electoral process to maintain their dominance.

    “During the research process it emerged that competition for votes involved not only intimidation, but also other forms of manipulation of the voters and the electoral process,” states the report.

    To read the article titled, “ANC ‘chief culprit in voter intimidation’,” click here.

    IOL News
  • IEC Not Capable of Stopping Poll Abuse

    The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has been found to be woefully ill-prepared to stop intimidation of their rivals by members of political parties ahead of 7 May 2014 general election.

    A report by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) has found that the IEC has no way of monitoring or curbing intimidation.

    The report is based on 24 ‘in-depth interviews’ with representatives of the African National Congress, Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters, Congress of the People, Inkatha Freedom Party, National Freedom Party, United Democratic Movement and the Workers' and Socialist Party.

    The report further states that the IEC routinely relies on election-time intimidation being reported to the police and not on intervention by itself.

    To read the article titled, “IEC 'can do nothing to stop poll abuse',” click here.

    Times Live
  • On Election Day, Bias Starts at the Top

    Part of the folklore of politics is that being first on a ballot paper is worth at least some extra votes in any general elections. That perhaps explains the broad smile on the faces of the Freedom Front Plus leaders the moment they snatched the first place on the ballot paper for the 7 May elections, after the names of political parties were drawn randomly out of a large bowl.

    The order of how the political parties contesting the elections will appear on the election ballot papers was decided at a ceremony hosted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Midrand on 19 March 2014, the same day that political parties signed a pledge to observe the Electoral Code of Conduct.

    Thankfully, the question of bias and political party placement on ballots has long been given the attention it deserves in our electoral system which makes provisions for the IEC to determine the design of the ballot papers to be used in an election. When it comes to our ballots and our elections, integrity has to come first on the list. That is why, as a nation, we should acknowledge the wisdom of the drafters of our Constitution for ensuring early in our democracy that we adopt the rotating name-ordering procedures, and therefore provide a fair and equal opportunity to all contesting political parties.

    This time the Freedom Front Plus has the opportunity to be at the top, which might just push it into a brighter future in the political landscape of our maturing democracy. How many seats these prospective votes will actually translate to and from which traditional political party supporters they will be drawn from remains to be seen as high voter turnout and the intensity of campaigns in previous elections has leaned towards the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in a way that often made the two-thirds majority victory a whisk away.

    According to the IEC, just over 24.1 million South Africans have registered to vote. This is 76.7 percent of the estimated voting age population which, according to Statistics South Africa, is 31.4 million. South Africa has a large population of young voters and this time 2.3 million young people have registered to vote for the first time. Also, two voter registration drives were held out in South Africa's 123 missions in 108 countries around the world, yielding over 3 703 potential voters from about 70 missions. Also important is that a significant number of prisoners in South Africa's 235 correctional facilities are expected to participate in these elections.

    Even in today's standards of advanced technology and instant communication, it is not difficult to figure out that people who are first in line at the entrance of a sports stadium know they have the best chance of getting the seats they want. Similarly, when students answer multiple-choice questions incorrectly, they usually choose one of the first options offered. When people taste-test four or more brands of wines, they tend to prefer the one they try first.

    And so it is with voting. Candidates listed first on the ballot usually get about two percentage more votes on average to the percentage they would have realistically achieved if they had been listed towards the end (in simple terms, flipping a 49 to 51 defeat into a 51 to 49 victory). In fact, in about half of the by-elections I have observed since the year 2000, the advantage of first place is even bigger - certainly big enough to win some additional seats in national, provincial and local legislatures, or to give a small political party a swing vote in municipalities where no single political party emerges with an outright majority support.

    It remains to be seen in these elections whether voters will follow the norm established in previous voting patterns

    Indeed, the question of what motivates voters in South Africa to cast their vote for one candidate or another has been studied by a number of researchers, particularly since the first democratic elections in 1994.

    Lessons from both the national and local government elections have shown that many factors are involved, but a particularly undesirable one that continues to be a subject of my research is the tendency of some voters to vote for those near the top of the ballot paper. This effect can be appreciable when a large number of candidates are presented and each voter is allowed to cast two or more votes for political parties contesting for seats in the national and provincial legislatures, or for political parties on the proportional representation list and candidates on the district or ward council list in the local government elections.

    Also, when voters know little or nothing about the political party or the candidates, or when the incumbent (who voters typically know at least somewhat) is not running for re-election. Therefore, some voters apparently feel an obligation or desire to vote even when they have no basis for choosing a candidate and are drawn to the first familiar name they read.

    This is an important factor to observe in these elections given that the ruling ANC no longer has former President Nelson Mandela to help canvass for voter support as it has always been the case in the past.

    But even in elections with well-publicised manifesto promises, as currently witnessed by the sea of posters and the high volume of messages on broadcast and social media, being listed high up can help. Some people, including first time voters, walk into the voting booth feeling ambivalent, and in the end just grab the name on top - if not on the top five - so they can get out of the voting booth feeling that they have accomplished something by participating in the elections.

    This could be because voters also tend to evaluate political parties with a confirmatory bias. Specifically, voters usually begin a search of memory for information about a political party by looking for reasons to select answer choices rather than reasons not to select a specific political party. Because of this, when considering a list of candidates, voters probably search memory primarily for reasons to vote for each contender rather than reasons to vote against him or her.

    It remains to be seen in these elections whether voters will follow the norm established in previous voting patterns, whether when working through a list on the ballot voters will think less and less about each subsequent alternative, because they have become increasingly fatigued by the experience of unfulfilled election promises and corrupt politicians. Also, it remains to be seen whether the short-term memory of voters will become increasingly clogged with these thoughts and thereby put their mark next to the Freedom Front Plus at the top when they stand in the voting booth.

    We are all watching.

    - Nkosikhulule Nyembezi is a researcher, policy analyst and human Rights activist. He is also the Co-Chairperson of Elections 2014 National Co-ordinating Forum. This article first appeared on the South African Broadcasting Corporation News website.
  • Candidate Lists for Public Inspection

    The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says that the lists of candidates for the 7 May 2014 general election will be available for public inspection on 28 March, 31 March and 1 April 2014.

    In a press statement, IEC spokesperson, Kate Bapela, points out that, "The comprehensive list will include all supporting documentation…”

    Bapela says a total of 29 parties will contest the general elections, adding that only four political parties - Africa Unite Party, Dagga Party, Lekgotla for Democracy Advancement, and the South African Progressive Civil Organisation - were removed from the ballot paper after they failed to pay the required election deposit.

    To read the article titled, “Election lists to be made public,” click here.

    News 24
  • Malawi Under Pressure From Aid Donors

    President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, is under pressure from foreign aid donors and is facing a tough re-election battle.

    Banda has promised forensic audit of suspected government corruption over the last decade.

    She says the audit, which is backed by Britain and the European Union, will help reveal the extent of corruption in the impoverished southern African state.

    To read the article titled, “Malawi promises forensic audit as donors freeze funds,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • African Youth Not Interested in Elections - AU

    African Union’s (AU) chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says the union is worried about the growing trend of unconcern towards electoral processes among young people in democracies across Africa.  
    Speaking at a gala dinner to mark the 160th anniversary of Adams College, Dlamini-Zuma states that it is essential for young people in Africa to become active in shaping the future they are to inherit.
    She has encouraged the youth to participate in elections and policy development initiatives aswell as to hold their governments accountable.
    To read the article titled, “Growing apathy towards electoral processes in Africa worries AU,” click here.

    SABC News
  • SASSA Warned Ahead of Elections

    The National Anti-Corruption Forum has urged the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to be vigilant as the 2014 elections draw closer.
    The forum says some politicians are beginning to interfere with the agency's work in a desperate attempt to push their parties' agendas.
    The latest SASSA annual report has revealed that over 7 700 fraud and corruption cases were registered with the agency in the past year.
    To read the article titled, “SASSA warned to be vigilant ahead of 2014 elections,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Elections and Leadership Changes: How Do Political Leaders Take (and Leave) Power in Africa?

    In the 2012 Senegalese election, opposition leader Macky Sall defeated incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade and duly replaced him as the country’s new head of state. In that same year, vice-president Joyce Banda was swiftly sworn in as president of Malawi following the death of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, only two days earlier. In Mali, President Amadou Toumani Touré was ousted from power also in 2012, but this time via a coup d’état led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. These were very different ways in which power was handed over in three distinct countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): through an open and competitive election in Dakar, through a peaceful non-electoral succession in Lilongwe, and through a classic military golpe in Bamako.

    This Consultancy Africa Intelligence paper investigates the impact of the spread of multiparty electoral politics in Africa, over the past two decades, on the way political leaders are recruited and replaced in SSA. It does so by using data from an original Leadership Change Dataset, compiled by the author, which covers all 49 sub-Saharan countries from 1960 (or subsequent years of independence) to 2012.

    Africa’s Shift to Multiparty Elections

    Typically ruled by single-party leaders or military autocrats, post-independence African countries have long been associated with various forms of repressive regimes. Either violence was used to reach power (as with military overthrow and guerrilla takeovers), or violence was important in holding on to it (as was the case not only where soldiers administered power, but also in many one-party states). Little room was left for peaceful handovers of power or for governments elected by the civilian population through a competitive vote. Much of this political set up appeared to change since the early 1990s, when a reform movement that led to the widespread introduction of multi-party elections shook most countries on the continent.

    This was not only the time when the African National Congress (ANC) was elected to office in South Africa, but also when the likes of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya and Jerry Rawlings in Ghana had to concede that their mandates would eventually be challenged in multi-candidate presidential elections.
    From the outset, it was clear that the vote in this new wave of African elections would often be neither free nor fair. Powerful rulers such as Omar Bongo of Gabon, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda or Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia proved that it was one thing for them to call a pluralist election, however, it was an entirely different matter to allow their political opponents a genuine and open opportunity for challenging them. A long list of African leaders therefore managed to weather the electoral ‘revolution’ and stay in office, soon recovering most of the power they had given away (if any) during the transition. To date, as many as eight contemporary African rulers have been in power for 25 years or more and five of SSA’s 10 longest-serving leaders remain at the helm of their countries.
    Leader In power from/to Consecutive years in office
    1. Omar Bongo (Gabon) 1967-2009 42
    2. Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo) 1967-2005 38
    3. Josè Eduardo dos Santos (Angola) 1979-2014 (in office) 35
    4. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea) 1979-2014 (in office) 35
    5. Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) 1980-2014 (in office) 34
    6. Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Cote d'Ivoire) 1960-1993 33
    7. Haile Selassie I (Ethiopia) 1941-1974 33
    8. Paul Biya (Cameroon) 1982-2014 (in office) 32
    9. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (Congo, Dem. Rep.) 1965-1997 32
    10. Mswati III (Swaziland) 1983-2014 (in office) 31
    11. Hastings Banda (Malawi) 1964-1994 30
    12. Dawda Jawara (Gambia) 1965-1994 29
    13.Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) 1986-2014 (in office) 28
    14.Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Faso) 1987-2014 (in office) 27
    15. William Tubman (Liberia) 1944-1971 27
    16. France-Albert René (Seychelles) 1977-2004 27
    17. Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) 1964-1991 27
    18. Ahmed Sékou Touré (Guinea) 1958-1984 26
    19. Omar Al-Bashir (Sudan) 1989-2014 (in office) 25
    Longest-serving rulers in post-independence Sub-Saharan Africa (2)

    Leadership changes in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Do these findings mean that the adoption of formal multi-party elections actually change very little in the way Africa’s top political posts are allocated? No, quite the contrary. The practice of running multi-party presidential elections that was introduced about two decades ago did mark a true – if incomplete – watershed. A look at comprehensive data on the way that leaders came into power, and left power, in SSA since 1960 shows how the period after 1990 has been characterised by significantly different dynamics when compared to the previous one.(3)

    First, the very occurrence of leadership changes – i.e. the replacement of a country’s top political leader – which had been declining in absolute as well as in relative terms (i.e. as a share of all observations, which in turn depends on the actual number of independent countries in any given year) between the 1960s and the 1980s, has gone up significantly since the 1990s. During the last decade of the millennium, the number of new leaders across the continent went up to 65, from a much lower 34 during the previous decade, almost doubling the percentage of country-years in which a leadership change took place (from 7.4 percent to 13.6 percent). The 2000s essentially confirmed this new trend. In other words, the diffusion of multi-party elections coincided with a period of more frequent political successions.

    Secondly, coups d’état, which had become a common way of taking power since the 1960s and came to represent about 50 percent of all leadership changes during the subsequent two decades, were halved to 24.6 percent in the 1990s and halved again to 13.3 percent in the 2000s.(4) During the latter decade, only eight leaders ascended to their country’s top office through a military intervention, or between one third and one half of the number of putsches in every single one of the previous four decades.

    Thirdly, multi-party elections overtook both military interventions as well as non-electoral peaceful handovers and became the predominant way to the presidency. As many as 47.5 percent of all leadership changes during the 1990-2012 period, i.e. after electoral practices began to be widely adopted in the region, occurred via elections. This was up from a mere 7.8 percent during 1960-1989. The vote therefore replaced the gun as the primary means of getting to power. Military takeovers, which represented 49.6 percent of all leadership changes during Africa’s first three decades since independence, lost what legitimacy they had in the past and declined to 18.7 percent in 1990-2012.

    Furthermore, peaceful transfers of power to non-elected officials also went down significantly, albeit they remain an option, particularly for transitional periods. Consider, for instance, that as many as nine presidents died in office between 2001-2012, including Togo’s ÉtienneEyadéma Gnassingbé in 2005, Guinea-Conakry’s Lansana Conté and Zambia’s Levy Mwanawasa in 2008, Nigeria’s Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010, and Ghana’s John Atta Mills in 2012. They all had to be temporarily replaced before a new election could take place.

    Number and percentage of leadership changes, per decade (1961-2010) (5)

    Coups d’état as a share of total leadership changes, by decade (1961-2010) (6)

    Modes of leadership change, 1960-1989 vs. 1990-2012 (7)

    Opposition victories and changes in power

    While the use of the ballot box does tell us something about popular participation and formal political inclusion, the question remains as to what extent opposition candidates and parties have been allowed to truly challenge incumbent leaders (and possibly oust them) at election time. It is well known that, in many African countries, holding formally pluralist elections did not prevent incumbent presidents and their political allies from managing and controlling the process in such a way that, whether through co-optation, coercion or a combination of the two, they would ensure that they remained in power. So how often did it happen that opposition politicians were able not only to run but actually to win an election and get to power, as in the cases of John Kufuor in Ghana (2000), Mwai Kibaki in Kenya (2002) or Macky Sall in Senegal (2012)?

    As shown in the graph below, the number of multi-party elections for the executive skyrocketed over the past two decades, up from an average of 0.97 elections per year (1960-1989) to 7.35 elections per year (1990-2012). In a number of cases, the polls were also instrumental in the handover of power between leaders belonging to the same ruling political party. These were instances of leadership succession without political alternation. Yet, during 1990-2012, the opposition was able to snatch a victory in as many as 39 cases (or 23.1 percent, i.e. between one-in-four and one-in-five elections), something that had occurred three times only (or 10.3 percent during the previous thirty years).

    Opposition victories and alternation in power via elections, 1960-1989 vs. 1990-2012 (8)

    The impact of electoral progress on economic development

    Political progress in SSA is incomplete and uneven. Countries such as Eritrea or Sudan remain deeply authoritarian, the likes of Uganda or Tanzania are only partly reformed, and others, such as Sierra Leone, Senegal or Namibia, have made important democratic advances. Moreover, the extent of corruption, still a major concern on the continent, also varies quite significantly. Yet electoral accountability and alternation in power have generally increased, which, in turn, has supported the economic development of Africa.

    Several observers have noted that the economic performance of African countries has been positively affected by recent democratic gains. (9) Political reforms largely took place between 1990 and 1994. Economic progress became visible in the second half of the 1990s, and advanced particularly during the subsequent decade. While SSA states grew by an average 2.1 percent annual rate during the period between 1990 and 1999 (largely due to the higher rates in the second half of the decade), this figure more than doubled between the period 2000 and 2012, when countries in the region achieved a 4.7 percent growth average. Political change was allegedly a key factor.

    Concluding remarks

    Up until the 1990s, democratic rule had largely failed to take root in countries in SSA. Yet, since the 1990s, the region has become home to a large-scale movement of political reform that has led to the widespread adoption of multiparty elections. In spite of the many shortcomings of the reformed regimes, profound changes emerged in the way in which African leaders are selected, empowered and ultimately removed from office. Military coups d’état, once the main route to power, nowadays appear to be more a legacy of the past than a tolerated way to the top executive office.
    Elections, on the contrary, have become a virtually inescapable mechanism for the legitimisation of new rulers. Moreover, as pluralist elections spread and leadership changes became a more frequent phenomenon than they used to be, post-1990 Africa’s opposition leaders have considerably improved their chances of ousting incumbent presidents through a competitive vote. Finally, recent democratic progress likely contributed to the impressive economic performance of the region in the new century.

    (1) Giovanni Carbone is a Consultant with CAI and Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy). Contact Giovanni through Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Elections and Democracy unit (elections.democracy@consultancyafrica.com). Edited by Liezl Stretton. The author would like to thank Anita Bianchi for research assistance in building the Leadership Change Dataset.
    (2) Compiled by the author using data from the Leadership Change Dataset, available from the author on request.
    (3)While our Leadership Change Dataset also includes instances of ‘interim leaderships’ (i.e. African leaders in office for less than 12 consecutive months), we do not count them in the data presented in this paper.
    (4) Compiled by the author using data from the Leadership Change Dataset, available from the author on request.
    (5) Ibid.
    (6) Ibid.
    (7) Ibid.
    (8) Ibid.
    (9) For example, ‘The hopeful continent. Africa rising’, The Economist, 3 December 2011, http://www.economist.com; ‘Africa and the Arab Spring: A new era of democratic expectations’, Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, Washington, D.C., November 2011, http://africacenter.org; Radelet, S., 2010. Emerging Africa: How 17 countries are leading the way. Centre for Global Development: Washington, D.C.
    Giovanni Carbone
  • What Tlakula's Alleged Conflict of Interest Means for the IEC and the Elections

    We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Last year, Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson, Pansy Tlakula, had presided over an ‘unmanaged conflict of interest’ when the IEC entered into a R320 million lease agreement for office space.

    The allegation was that Tlakula - who was the then chief executive officer - had at the very least a business relationship with African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament and chairperson of Parliament’s finance committee, Thaba Mufamadi, and that the latter had benefitted from the deal.

    Tlakula pronounced that she had recused herself from the decision-making meeting and that she did not personally benefit from the lease deal (although when precisely, and with what effect, she actually recused herself is somewhat unclear).

    Again we find ourselves in the tricky area that has so besmirched political ethics in post-apartheid South Africa: conflict of interest and its interpretation.
    Where to start with this inevitably elastic concept? A useful business ethics definition is ‘a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as say, a public official, an employee or a professional.’

    So often in these cases, perception is everything.

    But there is another issue that raises its head: whether it is at all desirable for someone in Tlakula’s position to be doing business with a senior member of the ANC - or indeed any political party that is contesting the election. The answer must surely be ‘no’ given that the IEC is tasked with administering free and fair elections, in which the ANC is a dominant player.

    Considering that we are about to enter the most contested election since 1994, the argument in favour of ensuring that there is no possible perception of partiality in the running of the election is surely overwhelming.

    Tlakula contested the Public Protector’s report, and Madonsela submitted it to audit firm Price Water House Coopers (PwC) for independent scrutiny. That report has not been released, but it appears as if the findings are even more damning and that criminal charges have been recommended - against as-yet-unknown members or officials of the IEC.

    First of all, the report ought to be made public as soon as possible. Shrouding the matter in secrecy will not help and will cast more aspersions on the IEC at a crucial time.

    Calls have been made for Tlakula to step down if indeed PwC confirms the Public Protector’s findings, but it is hard to pre-empt the matter. What we do know at this stage is that the perceived ‘unmanaged conflict of interest’ casts doubts over Tlakula’s own reputation. Given that she is the head of the IEC, this controversy threatens the good reputation of the IEC more generally. Surprisingly, given that South Africa is on the cusp of an election, the Tlakula story has hardly made front-page news, apart from the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution (CASAC) sensibly calling for the matter to be brought into the public arena and resolved.

    The IEC has been the jewel in the crown of our constellation of Constitutional bodies, under the helm of the graceful and firm Brigalia Bam, with Pansy Tlakula at her side. Over the years Tlakula garnered a fine reputation as fair-minded, principled and committed to openness, not least in her role as African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

    Yet, recent allegations against IEC officials have also caused concern. Not too long ago in the contested Tlokwe by-election, an IEC official was accused of being bias and there have been allegations of vote-rigging. This chips away at the reputation of the IEC, even if a national election is quite different from a local by-election.

    Many who have called for Tlakula to step down do so with more than a tremor of trepidation. One need only look to recent history within the Constitutional Court where constitutional principles were upheld and resulted in the appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice, once it was ruled that the president had unlawfully renewed former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term.

    So, if Tlakula resigned or was forced to do so, unlikely as that might be, the risk is that someone far weaker and far more compromised could take the helm at the IEC. Can South Africa afford to take that risk? Perhaps it is better to stick with Tlakula on the basis that even though her breach of ethics is serious, no one is actually suggesting that she would be overtly biased in her oversight of the electoral process.

    Yet, an alternative scenario is perhaps too uncongenial to contemplate: that Tlakula is provided de facto political protection, that the ANC in government turns a blind eye, stymies any action to deal with this matter before the elections, and so Tlakula herself understands that she is beholden to the dominant political master.

    Fast forward then to the elections and possible close calls between the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in, say, Gauteng, where the IEC’s credibility will be immediately under scrutiny – and suddenly independence and the perception of it becomes crucial to the political moment.

    Can Tlakula then be trusted to make a fair call should she be under the veil of political protection? Neither scenario is ideal, and really one wants to rage against Tlakula’s folly in not staying well away from a conflict of interest. However, by failing to deal with this openly and decisively, and thereby allowing the perception of it to sully her good name, puts us all in a very delicate and awkward situation.

    - Judith February is senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) Governance, Crime and Justice division. This article first appeared in the ISS Today. 
    Judith February
  • TAC to Take on Politicians Over Health

    The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) plans to turn up the pressure on politicians ahead of the general election on 7 May 2014 by launching a manifesto to challenge them to answer 11 questions on pressing health issues.
    TAC national chairperson, Andile Yawa, says the activists hope to prime the electorate to ask tough healthcare questions of politicians on the campaign trail.
    Yawa explains that, "If politicians could use the public health system, then they would develop an interest."
    To read the article titled, “TAC plans to take on politicians over health, click here.

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