Johannesburg – The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) is headed for a showdown with the DA at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) over its treatment of Good party leader, Patricia de Lille ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The commission is challenging the Electoral Court’s decision to overturn its ruling ordering the DA to apologise for claiming it fired former Cape Town mayor De Lille, now public works and infrastructure minister.
De Lille complained to the IEC after the DA made damaging accusations against her after she resigned from the party in 2018 after a lengthy public battle to establish Good.
The IEC found that the DA violated section 9(1)(b) of the electoral code of conduct by making false statements that it fired De Lille. Its challenge was based on the proper interpretation of the code, which the Electoral Court found that it did not have the power in the Electoral Act to enforce the code.
The IEC contends that it has powers to deal with complaints by political parties that are in breach of the code.
In its ruling, the commission ordered the DA to desist from making any more false statements on De Lille being fired by the party.
It then ordered the DA to apologise to De Lille within three days.
The IEC based its decision on the deal De Lille reached with the DA in August 2018, paving the way for her exit. The DA later admitted that De Lille resigned in exchange for it dropping disciplinary action against her.
However, the Electoral Court found in June last year that the IEC’s decision to be invalid, void and that it be reviewed and set aside.
“No person or body can impose a penalty or sanction, administrative or otherwise, without being specifically authorised by law to do so. The commission owes its existence and powers to statutes and being created by statute it is required to act within the confines of the stature. It has no powers beyond those specifically conferred upon it. In the absence of a power to impose a sanction the imposition of a remedy is ultra vires (beyond the powers) and unlawful,” ruled Electoral Court members, judges Boissie Mbha, Colin Lamont and attorney Sungaree Pather.
The DA also asked the Electoral Court to review and set aside the IEC’s decision not to investigate its complaint against the ANC for claiming that it had made a R1 billion profit from water tariffs in Cape Town. The IEC promised to reverse its decision and allow an external investigation to proceed and this move rendered the DA’s application to review and set aside the decision not to probe the ANC moot.
The DA described the ruling as precedent-setting for the IEC’s future conduct after it allegedly behaved in an inconsistent manner when dealing with complaints and urged it operate without fear or favour, not to be used as a political football or to be perceived to be partial. The SCA will hear arguments in the matter next Friday.