Tlakula made an ‘honest mistake’

Pansy Tlakula's lawyers say she has never undermined her credibility or impartiality as IEC chair.

IEC Chair Pansy Tlakula confers with her legal team at the Electoral Court during a hearing into her credibility, 4 June 2014. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers for Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chair Pansy Tlakula have argued it's unfair to claim she tried to manipulate a leasing tender to benefit her business partner.

The argument was made during proceedings today at the Electoral Court hearing on Tlakula's alleged mismanagement of an IEC office lease agreement.

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

She found Tlakula guilty of maladministration and failing to disclose her relationship with Thaba Mufamadi, a part-owner of Abland.

Shortly before the 7 May elections, five political parties launched an application at the Electoral Court to have Tlakula removed from her post.

The matter was postponed until today after it was found that a decision could not be made before the nation went to the polls.

Tlakula's legal team admits she flouted procedures but insists she made an honest mistake when doing so.

Senior counsel Daniel Berger says the fact Tlakula did not follow procedures on various occasions did not in any way affect her impartiality as IEC chair.

"None of those instances reveals a lack of independence, impartiality, integrity or credibility," he argues.

"There can be no question of manipulation of the process. It was a genuine, honest attempt by her to open up the process."

Berger says there is a long-standing process within the IEC.

"There was a general understanding for years that when it came to the finding and renting of office space, that it was not subject to the procurement legislation."

Berger says all the commissioners also knew that the process was being flouted and did not object.

"In fact, it was obviously a state of mind that was shared by everyone at the commission including all the commissioners, because they knew that a tender process had not been followed."