The Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is battling to avert disaster, as employees and trade unions threaten to down tools.
As 8 May draws ever-nearer, the palpable anticipation is reaching a boiling point, on many intersecting fronts. Political parties have wrapped-up their protracted campaign efforts leaving voters to their own idiosyncratic devices. With ballot boxes at the ready, the 2019 elections, touted as being the most vital since the country’s dawn of democracy, are set to define the future of South Africa.
Yet, dissidence within the ranks of the IEC is threatening
to tarnish the organisation’s promise of ‘free and fair elections’. The
National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) issued a
statement on Monday morning, calling for urgent intervention from the IEC.
According to NEHAWU spokesperson, Khaya Xaba, the issues relating to the labour
dispute stem from a bubbling three-year contestation.
Why are IEC workers threatening to strike?
At the fore of the discontent is a bitter wage dispute. IEC
employees claim that wage recommendations have not been taken seriously. Xaba
“As things stand, workers are not paid accordingly and are subjected to slave wages.”
Workers are also dissatisfied with the IEC’s refusal to
assist with ‘tools of trade’. Xaba noted that this issue relates to the inadequate
transportation of staff and ballot boxes which has, in turn, resulted in a
massive drop in morale. Again, IEC employees are upset that recommendations in
this regard, tabled by the bargaining forum task team, have not been
Threats of strike action on Election Day – which is less
than 48 hours away – have forced the IEC into an emergency meeting with
stakeholders, including union representatives. Xaba warned:
“If our issues are not addressed our members will not guarantying fair elections as we might withhold our labour.”
IEC refuses to comment on dispute
Speaking to eNCA on Monday morning, IEC chairperson, Glen Mashinini, refused to divulge any information relating to the looming strike action. When questioned about the labour dispute, a clearly disgruntled Mashinini retorted:
“With matters that are related to labour issues, the chief electoral officer is in discussion with the labour unions about those matters.
When we are ready and when we finalise the issues, they will
then be reported. From our side, as the commission, we don’t have outstanding
issues on salary.”
Election Day: Striking and the law
Mashinini did, however, point out that Electoral Law –
specifically the Act 73 of 1997 – prohibits political meetings, marches,
demonstrations or any other political event taking place on voting day.
Furthermore, the Electoral Act also prohibits disruptions in the public
transport and telecommunications sectors.