Parties to sign Electoral Code of conduct

Leaders of all political parties represented in the National Assembly will on Monday sign the Electoral Code of Conduct at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.

The Electoral Code of Conduct is contained in the Electoral Act and binds all parties contesting elections.

The signing comes only days after the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Free State accused members of the African National
Congress (ANC) of defacing its posters, an act prohibited by the Code of conduct.

Among other actions prohibited by the Code is the use of language that provokes violence; intimidation of candidates or voters; publishing of false information about other parties; plagiarising a party’s symbols, name and acronyms; offering rewards for votes; carrying of weapons to political meeting/marches or rallies; and abusing power, privilege or influence to influence the outcome of the election.

The code exists to ensure that all elections are free and fair. It aims to create a climate of tolerance, free political campaigning and open public debate.

All parties, candidates and their agents must adhere to the code and failure to do so may result in a fine of up to R200 000 or a
10 year prison sentence. More lenient consequences include disqualification of the party or candidate.

According to the code, parties or candidates are required to speak out against political violence, threats against other parties, the Independent Electoral Commission, members of the public and the media.

For example, during the first voter registration weekend, March 5-6 2016, DA leader Mmusi Maimane called for non-violence after reports of isolated incidents in a number of provinces during the first day of registration.

With regards to the media, political parties are expected to condemn incidents like the one where SABC reporter Pimani Baloyi was shot at, in what seems to be an attempted hijacking while covering stories of local governance in Vuwani.

It is also important for political parties to be careful not to make statements that could endanger journalists or particular media organisations, as the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) told the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) after it decided to ban all Gupta-owned media from its events.

At a meeting in February, SANEF also urged the Electoral Commission to ensure that political parties adhere to the code of conduct even before the election has been promulgated, as journalists were already experiencing problems while covering campaigns in some areas.

Political parties are expected to let authorities, including the IEC and the South Africa Police Services, know about planned marches or rallies. They are also expected to communicate with one another in respect of any planned events.

If any violence arises during an election period, then any political party with knowledge is required to work with the police in
investigations into the violence.

For instance, if members of any political party know who the perpetrators of the recent violence in Vuwani, in which some 23
schools were torched, are, then they are required to help in the on-going investigations- even if the perpetrators are not members of the party.

A commitment to the Electoral Code of Conduct must be signed by each political party before it partakes in a local or national government election. Once they have signed it, parties have the responsibility of informing the public of the Code of Conduct; promoting it; and supporting all efforts to educate voters.

Watch the signing of the Electoral Code of Conduct in 2014:

Watch the February 2016 press conference on the Electoral Code of Conduct

Read the Electoral Code of Conduct: Schedule 2 of the Electoral Act

– By Zinhle Nkosi


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