South Africa: Independent Electoral Commission

Electoral Commission Act of 1996

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is established by the Constitution and its independence as an autonomous body is underwritten by the Electoral Commission Act (Constitution of the Republic of SA, Article 190-191; Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 3(1), (2)).

2019 South African elections: IEC banner outside a polling station

Composition

The IEC is composed of five members, one of whom must be a judge. A member of the IEC must be a South African citizen and must not have a high party-political profile (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 6). Members of the IEC are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Assembly, following nominations by a National Assembly inter-party committee. The inter-party committee exams a list of at least eight nominations submitted by a panel consisting of the President of the Constitutional Court (Chair) and representatives of the Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality and the Public Protector (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 6(2)).

Members of the IEC may be removed for misconduct, incapacity or incompetence by the President on a resolution of the National Assembly. The removal must be initiated by the Electoral Court and the member must first be found wanting by a committee of the National Assembly before the Assembly itself entertains the resolution of removal (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 7(3)(a)).

Term of Office

A Commissioner is appointed for a period of seven years unless the President, on the recommendation of the National Assembly, extends the term for a particular period (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 7(1)).

Functions

The following functions are allocated to the IEC by the Constitution (Constitution of the Republic of SA, 190(1)):

2019 elections: 2019 elections: IEC staff count the votes
  • To manage elections at all levels of government.
  • To ensure elections are free and fair.
  • To declare the results in as short a time as possible.

The Electoral Commission Act adds considerable detail to these broad functions (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 5(1)):

The IEC is also tasked with the allocation of seats to the constituencies used for the election of members of the National Assembly and legislatures as well as the administrative voting areas used in these elections (Electoral Act 1998, 60-67, Schedule 1, 2, 12; see Delimitation of constituencies and voting areas for details). Furthermore, the IEC is also responsible for the disembersment of public funding and the r3egulation of private punding to political parties in terms of the Political Parties Funding Act of 2018 (see Political party funding for details).

2019 South African elections: IEC Commissioners meet with the EISA EOM's leadership team

Commissioners

The following are members of the IEC (IEC 2019):

  • Glen Mashinini (Chairperson)
  • Janet Love (Vice-Chairperson)
  • Dr Nomsa Masuku
  • Mosotho Moepya
  • Judge Dhaya Pillay

Chief electoral officer

The chief electoral officer is appointed by the IEC and functions as the head of administration and is the IEC’s accounting officer (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 12). The current chief electoral officer is Mosotho Moepya (IEC 2016).

Electoral Court

The Electoral Court is established by the Electoral Commission Act to review decisions of IEC and to act as final court of appeal in the adjudication of disputes by the courts; it has the same status as that of the Supreme Court. The members are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 18-20).

Cover: IEC's 2018 Annual Report

Funding, finances and accounting

The IEC receives its financial support from parliamentary appropriations (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 13). The Chief Electoral Officer is the accounting officer of the IEC and is responsible for all accounting and financial record keeping and these accounts and records are audited by the Auditor-General (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 12(2)(b), 13). The IEC must submit audited financial reports to Parliament at the end of each financial year of all incomes and expenditures (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 14(1)).

In terms of the Act, the Commission may establish a separate unit within the Commission for the purposes of executing the duties and functions of this Act. The chief executive officer would be the person responsible for the management and administration of Funds (Political Party Funding Act 2018, 21(2)). The chief executive officer, as part of Commission, has a duty to report to Parliament and to give that report as well as the accounting related to the fund to the Auditor-General for auditing (Political Party Funding Act, 2018 22 (1(c)) (Electoral Commission Act 1996, 13 (3)). The accounting related information shall consist of the following (Electoral Commission Act 1996, 5 (2)):

  • all monies received or accruing to the Funds;
  • all allocations and payments made;
  • all expenditure arising from the allocation of money from the Funds; and
  • the current record of the capital and liabilities of the Funds during that year.
Cover: IEC's 2004 Election Report

Reports

Other than the financial reports referred to above, the President may require in writing of the IEC reports of the activities of the IEC, the IEC must publish a report as soon as possible after each election and may also on its own initiative “publish a report on the likelihood or otherwise that it will be able to ensure that any pending election will be free and fair” (Electoral Commission Act 51 1996, 14(2)-(4). Instances of these reports may be found at: