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Opposition parties unite against IEC chair

Eight parties want Pansy Tlakula to step down while her own deputy has expressed concern over the polls.

IEC Chairperson Pansy Tlakula is accused of maladministration and misconduct over the acquisition of the IEC headquarters. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

PRETORIA/JOHANNESBURG - Nearly all of the country's major opposition parties on Monday called on Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chairperson Pansy Tlakula to step down in the wake of the scandal around the commission's headquarters.

Last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a damning report on the IEC's procurement of its R320 million Centurion offices from property developers Abland.

She found Tlakula guilty of maladministration and misconduct over the acquisition.

Madonsela said the IEC chair failed to disclose her relationship with Thaba Mufamadi, a part-owner of Abland.

The protector recommended President Jacob Zuma take urgent steps against her.

Tlakula maintains she was not part of the decision to award the lease to Abland, arguing two proposals were offered to the IEC in making the decision and that she indicated no preference.

However, it emerged the IEC had initially decided to award the lease contract to Menlyn Corporate Park, but Tlakula expressed her dissatisfaction with the decision, leaving Abland as the only choice.

Madonsela recommended National Treasury review the lease and it soon commissioned a separate investigation into the matter.

The findings were released last month and backed up Madonsela's conclusions, finding the procurement was not done fairly, transparently or cost-effectively.

PARTIES UNITE AGAINST TLAKULA

Today, eight parties, including Agang SA, the Congress of the People (Cope) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) demanded Tlakula's resignation.

They say her actions were cause for concern over whether she could properly preside over the 7 May elections.

The other parties who made the call were the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) chose not to join the call for Tlakula's resignation at this stage, but were also present at the multi-party meeting in Pretoria.

The statement from all 10 parties says some of them believe the reputation of the IEC has been damaged by Tlakula's actions.

"The good international reputation of the IEC has been tainted and it creates doubt that the commission can preside over free and fair elections," the document read.

The eight parties who want Tlakula to step down say she must do so immediately or face legal action.

EFF leader Julius Malema says similar calls have been made against President Jacob Zuma following Madonsela's recent report on Nkandla, so the same should apply to Tlakula.

He says the media should join them in asking details of who prints, distributes and secures ballot papers, as well as who's responsible for capturing the votes.

"The IEC has proved that it's got the potential to sleep with politicians," Malema says. "It's supposed to be neutral."

However, FF+ representative Piet Uys says it would be harmful to the election process if the IEC chairperson was removed at this stage, saying the legal process should only take its course after the polls.

IEC DEPUTY REVEALS CONCERN

Meanwhile, Tlakula's deputy Terry Tselane says the matter has been "very stressful" for everyone in the IEC.

"We understand that political parties are within their rights to say the things they believe are correct. We think very highly of all the political parties - they are our main customers, therefore we are noting what they are saying."

Asked whether Tlakula had changed her mind about not resigning, Tselane said he couldn't speak on her behalf.

He also said he could not say whether he believed she should resign.

However, Tselane was drawn to admit that it's now difficult to say whether it will remain possible to ensure free and fair elections amidst the scandal.

He says mechanisms have been put in place to ensure credible elections, but says any failures could simply come down to public perception.

"As individuals within the commission and as a country, we are committed to ensuring an environment conducive to free and fair elections. I understood the political parties that were meeting today to be saying the same thing."

Tselane adds the IEC will do everything in its power to ensure that these parties and the general public do not perceive the commission to be tainted.

"It is important that those issues are attended to and dealt with in a manner that will remove any doubt about credibility."

Listen to Stephen Grootes's full interview with Tselane.

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