Despite Challenges, Democracy in South Africa is Alive and Well
A preliminary statement from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom's (FNF) Sub-Saharan Africa Region Head of Mission, Mr Jules Maaten, in Johannesburg on the National and Provincial Elections in South Africa on 8 May 2019.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s international delegation of 19 observed the 8 May 2019 elections in South Africa as part of a larger effort of international organisations to verify that the electoral process had integrity, and that the process and results of electing a new South African government was free and fair. We covered the Gauteng Province across Tshwane, West Rand, Ekurhuleni, Northern Gauteng, Southern Gauteng and Soweto. A total of 45 polling stations were observed
The observers were impressed with the obvious enthusiasm amongst the crowds of people, who often waited for several hours starting early in the morning to cast their vote. We found the staff at polling stations generally up to their jobs. Democracy in South Africa is alive and well. We were similarly impressed with the good-natured attitude of the bulk of the voters, and between the different political parties present at and in the polling stations. This bodes well for the future.
We found several challenges, such as issues with the sealing of ballot boxes, the use of forms for voters voting outside their designated voting stations, which sometimes led to chaotic situations and polling stations running out of ballots, and with the positioning of voting booths, which did not always guarantee a secret vote. These need to be addressed in future. However, we found no suggestion of deliberate tampering. The voting process, in so far as our delegates were able to observe it, was well organised and orderly, and the elections were free and fair. We await the result of the audit on the extent to which multiple voting was possible due to the indelible ink not being indelible.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The maturity of a democracy is shown in the capacity of parties to accept the outcome of elections. It is always more pleasant to win, but obviously not everybody can win, or even meet their own expectations. We call on all parties and politicians to be generous in their acceptance of the will of the voter.
Our delegation, which had official IEC accreditation, consisted of 19 observers representing more than 15 countries including Denmark, Germany, South Africa, Kenya, Myanmar, India, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Finland and Lebanon. The participants included politicians, civil society activists, media and staff. FNF will continue to monitor the process further, the counting of votes, and the follow-up of the elections including the forming of governments. We shall coordinate with other accredited observer Missions.