24 January 2014
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula has encouraged South Africans to celebrate the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela by voting in this year’s general elections.
Tlakula was speaking on Wednesday at a meeting of representatives of farmers and farmworkers’ unions, in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, where a pledge was signed committing farmers and their employees to a free and fair voting process.
“We will be holding these elections after the passing away of the founding father of our democracy, Nelson Mandela,” Tlakula said.
“With these elections, we need to celebrate his legacy, and we have to ensure that we give the message out to the world that indeed South Africa is a wonderful country that continues to take its rightful place in the community of nations.
“This year’s elections are important elections in the history of our country, as we will be celebrating our 20th year of democracy and we should do so with enthusiasm,” she said, encouraging people “to relive the magic of 1994”.
The second and final round of voter registration is set for the weekend of 8 and 9 February.
While the date for the elections has not been proclaimed yet, the Constitution dictates that elections should be held within 90 days from the date of the last elections. This means the 2014 elections will be held some time between May and June.
Pledge to enable farmworkers to vote
In the past, Tlakula said, there were incidences where farm workers were not allowed time off to vote by their employers.
By signing the pledge, the farming community, and especially farmers, committed themselves to allow the IEC staff reasonable access to their farms to register farmworkers, to allow farmworkers to vote for the political party of their choice, to allow workers time off to visit the IEC’s voting stations to register, and to allow them time off to vote.
Tlakula said the IEC was currently enjoying a constructive relationship with the country’s farmers, and added that their engagement with them “is constant” through the IEC’s civic education programme.
The president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), Mike Mlengana, said: “We want to assure that we are going to encourage our members to allow their workers time off to register and vote.
“As Afasa, you will never hear us saying that we are not going to vote, and we are clear to our members that they should refrain from suppressing their workers by denying them the right to exercise their democratic right to vote for their preferred political party.”
Representing Agri SA, Elize van der Westhuizen said: “Our members are going to allow workers to register and vote. We will also allow the IEC reasonable access to the farms to conduct voter registration, and we will also allow workers to attend political rallies since we value the importance of free and fair elections.”
Transvaal Agricultural Union SA regional manager, Lynnette du Plessis, said: “We stand for free and fair elections, where people are allowed to vote without being intimidated. We’ve already started to encourage our members to allow their workers to go and register and vote in the upcoming elections.”
The deputy secretary of the Food and Allied Workers Union, Moleko Phakedi, called on farmers to allow IEC staff to conduct their work in farming areas without any difficulties.
“We are saying to farmers, please allow your workers to attend campaigns of their respective political parties in your farming area, in the spirit of Mandela of reconciliation and reaching out to one another,” he said.