Keynote address delivered by Commissioner Dr Brigalia N Bam,
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (IEC) at the launch of the Results Operation Centre (ROC) for the 2011
Municipal Elections Hall J, Tshwane Events Centre, Tshwane
11 May 2011Programme director
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of international organisations
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
Members and representatives of national, provincial and local government
Members of the party liaison committees, leaders and representatives of political parties
Religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations
Commissioners and representatives of Chapter 9 Institutions
Community leaders and representatives of civil society organisations
Our esteemed colleagues from the media
Visitors from different countries
Members of the public who are watching us live on television this morning
Fellow colleagues and friends
Ladies and gentlemen: greetings from the Electoral Commission
All protocol observed!
It is such a pleasure for me to speak to you today, exactly seventeen years after we held our first historic elections that ushered in our new democracy in 1994. As we have done over the years, we meet again today on this historic occasion to mark the official and formal opening of our Results Operation Centre or simply “ROC”, as we in the IEC now call it.
Historically, it is a tradition of the Commission since 1999 to establish this facility at national and provincial levels. This centre is essentially the focal point or clearing house of election results.
Context of this year’s elections
As usual, we are honoured yet humbled at the presence of many international and local observers, visitors, members of the diplomatic corps and media personnel at the official opening of the ROC. Yet, it will probably be amiss for us not to highlight the context of our elections and situate it within a wider continental perspective. Simply put, as a component part of the African continent, South Africa’s elections should be viewed in a wider continental perspective; because our success is the success of the African continent inasmuch as our failure will be seen as such.
In addition, although these will be the eighth major elections we have held since
1994, they will be adding to Africa’s slowly emerging tradition of resolving political contestations or conflict peacefully through the ballot box and not through violence. Increasingly, Africans are taking this democratic route to resolve the continent’s constant struggles for economic resources and political power. Therefore, we are always happy whenever successful elections are held in any part of Africa as this suggests that the democratisation process is slowly taking root throughout the continent.
For us in South Africa, each election we hold constantly reminds us of our original commitment to the ideals and cardinal principles of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, of association, human dignity, and the right to vote in a democratic election. Furthermore, they remind us of the right to form a political party of one’s choice, the right to stand for election or to be elected to public office; and the importance of free and fair, credible elections that are not marred by violence, civil war or any kind of conflict.
This commitment also pertains to the ideals of building a new nation that would take its place among the free nations of the world; as well as commitment to peace building, reconciliation and contributing to a sustainable and just world order.
We enter this year’s local government elections being particularly encouraged by the dramatic increases in the number of parties, voters, and increased public participation in electoral democracy as shown by the large numbers in our voters roll and registered political parties. For us in South Africa, these increases signal one thing for us: that our democracy is maturing.
Climate conducive to free and fair elections
As the Electoral Commission, we are aware that this year’s elections are eagerly awaited and will be hotly contested by all South Africans. However, our hope is that these polls will be conducted in an atmosphere that is conducive to democratic, peaceful, free and fair electoral practices. This will be in line with our country’s electoral laws, Constitution and international best practices.
Clearly, the pre-election period of the past four weeks or so has signalled the mood among the voters and parties countrywide. While not all has always proceeded smoothly in many areas of the country, still we are encouraged by the general enthusiasm of many South Africans towards this year’s elections. In fact, compared to previous elections, we have generally seen fewer incidents of violence in communities although we have also received some reports about possible instability or social unrest in some areas.
More and more, South Africans are also showing respect for the rule of law and the role of the Judiciary in resolving disputes; which can only improve the quality of our governance and the performance of the country’s institutions.
Multi-party democracy and political parties
In our system of elections, which among others emphasises on multi-party elections, we always have to recognise the important role of our political parties because they are our key stakeholders in election management. As local elections, this year’s elections will also contested by several independent candidates and we further welcome their contribution to electoral democracy.
The parties and candidates in essence play a critical role in the process of elections as they not only encourage voters to exercise their constitutional rights, but also help us to implement the electoral laws and Code of Conduct.
The day we have all been waiting for has finally arrived!
Ladies and gentlemen, many of us have been waiting for this year’s election day since the last local elections of 2006; and many of you can hardly wait for 18 May.
This day has now arrived and next week millions of South Africans will be flocking to our voting stations countrywide to vote in our country’s third local elections. Of course, as the IEC we are also very excited and waiting for these elections with great anticipation. However, our plans for these elections have been made several months ago and what we have been doing recently was merely to implement months and months of systematic planning and preparations.
Our commitment to South Africans
As the Electoral Commission we are delighted that South Africans have once more entrusted us with the running of these elections that will culminate in the appointment of public representatives in all the country’s municipalities.
From our side, we commit to do our utmost best in delivering this year’s elections and to ensure that transparency, accountability, professionalism and independence characterise the running of these elections. Such qualities are now increasingly associated with this commission and its operations and this year we plan to underscore these principles in our work more than we have done before.
In particular, I want to recognise the sterling work done by all our IEC personnel and our numerous partners who have worked tirelessly for many days to ensure that this Results Operations Centre is as we see it today. These many computers and miles upon miles of cables and massive infrastructure that we see will make it possible for us to process the results efficiently and effectively on Election Day.
In conclusion it is my privilege to now declare this Results Operation Centre officially open and functional. As the CEO has indicated, from now on, staff members of the IEC will start to relocate to this and other provincial results centres until after the elections.
The numerous computers that we see in this hall and the giant screens on this podium will soon come alive and reflect the names of the numerous parties and candidates that will appear on the tally board as part of the results that will be captured on 18 May. The zeros that you see on these screens will remain until the first results are received on the night of 18 May and will remain in operation until the results of all elections are recorded and formally announced.
Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, please join me as we now proceed to the formal launch and official opening of the Results Operation Centre for the 2011 Local Government Elections.
I thank you.
Source: Independent Electoral Commission
Issued by: Independent Electoral Commission
11 May 2011
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