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Posts Tagged ‘elections’

With looming local government elections and the country in an uproar over the current political leadership, it is immensely concerning to find the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) found wanting by the Public Protector, the Constitutional Court and the Electoral Court.

While questions are being asked about the integrity of this once proud piece of our democratic infrastructure, the geospatial community needs to focus its attention on the questions raised by the Constitutional Court and the Electoral Court with regard to the Tlokwe by-elections and the need for voters’ addresses to be provided on the voters’ role.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa in its ruling on 30 November 2015 regarding the case Kham and Others v Electoral Commission and Another, stated “that when registering a voter to vote in a particular voting district after the date of this order the Electoral Commission is obliged to obtain sufficient particularity of the voter’s address to enable it to ensure that the voter is at the time of registration ordinarily resident in that voting district” and it declared “that in all future municipal elections or by-elections the Electoral Commission is obliged in terms of section 16(3) of the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 to provide all candidates in municipal elections, on the date on which they are certified, with a copy of the segment of the national voters’ roll to be used in that ward in that election including the addresses of all voters, where these addresses are available.”

The IEC issued a statement on 29 February 2016 in response to the Electoral Court’s decision to postpone the Tlokwe by-election stating that it would appeal the ruling, and that it would also “embark on a variety of initiatives to update the voters’ roll with as many addresses for voters as possible ahead of the upcoming by-elections and this year’s Municipal Elections”.

Now people working with addresses in South Africa know all too well the difficulties of providing addresses for informal settlements and rural areas. To map and address every informal settlement in time for the upcoming elections is an impossibility and yet not providing an addressing solution puts our electoral process at risk as some political parties will be able take advantage of the voter registration process to ensure a win and other political parties will be able question the validity of the election results and hold the country and our democracy to ransom.

The local government elections have to be held by latest 16 August 2016, a mere four months away. One of the possible alternatives that the IEC needs to be looking at is mapcodes – a worldwide encoding system that allows any location on the surface of the earth to be represented by a short easily recognisable and memorable code. While the matter of tying the voter to the address is still an issue, a solution such as mapcodes (which is free) can deal with the matter of the actual location of the voter’s place of residence.

The geospatial community needs to be applying its thinking to this problem and needs to assist in providing a palatable solution to this dilemma. Informal settlements are not going to be disappearing soon and their residents have a right to an address and a right to vote. This is a prime opportunity for the leadership of the geospatial industry to step into the spotlight and provide some much needed guidance on matters of addressing.

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