High-level audit to check for fraud will delay final results

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The IEC Results Centre situated at the Pretoria Showgrounds, 7 April 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The final election results may not be out on Saturday as initially announced because a high-level audit has to be done to verify various suspected fraudulent incidents of double voting by some people, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) announced yesterday.

By law, the commission has seven days in which to announce the results and the audit process may not be completed by Saturday.

But IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the commission was confident “this exercise will be completed in time to provide assurance of the integrity of the results within this period”.

The probe kicked off immediately yesterday with the addition of more resources to capture the information from the VEC 4 forms and zip-zips into spreadsheets to facilitate comparisons and data analysis.

Mamabolo said 20 cases of double voting had been reported and arrests made in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The matter had put the credibility of the 2019 elections into question, with some concerned political parties calling for the polls to be rerun saying the cases could be a tip of the iceberg.

“The audit will cover a statistically representative sample of voting stations, as well as all voting stations where complaints or allegations of double voting have been received. The final number and selection of the sample will be determined in conjunction with expert statisticians,” Mamabolo said.

An investigation had also been launched into the effectiveness of the indelible ink marker pens supplied for the elections to mark the thumbs of those who had voted. The ink was proven to be easy to remove, which encouraged some voters to vote twice.

“The investigation will be done in conjunction with the CSIR and with the full cooperation and support of the supplier,” Mamabolo said.

Although some parties had called for a rerun of the entire election because of the problems, Mamabolo said the audit process was endorsed by political parties in the multiparty party liaison committee (PLC) which met yesterday.

Yesterday, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) national chairperson Dali Mpofu congratulated IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini for the commission’s move to initiate an audit.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte told The Citizen the calls for a rerun by some parties was unnecessary and described it as “a storm in a teacup”.

She said a few parties tried to raise the matter during the party liaison committee meeting but even if they still insisted, the PLC had agreed on the audit, therefore the calls for a rerun were invalid.

She said in every election there were many challenges, some of them were more serious, but they were always resolved within the system without the need to postpone an election or start afresh.

Mamabolo said the audit would involve the capture of information showing the ID numbers of voters who cast votes at each voting station from the “zip-zip” scanners and completed VEC 4 forms. The VEC 4 forms are filled in by a voter who voted in a voting district outside his or her own voting station.

Mamabolo said the data collected during the audit would be cross-referenced and compared, to identify any instances of multiple voting to help establish scientifically whether those were isolated incidents or systemic and what the material impact was, if any, to the results.

“The Electoral Commission has ordered the urgent docking of the zip-zip scanners to upload what information has been captured,” he said.

The process would also try to trace the culprits who voted twice.

Eric Naki / The Citizen