Zaakirah Vadi emphasises the need for independent observers to ensure free and fair elections in SA.

Election Watch under Defend Our Democracy is mobilising other civil society movements to join in its quest to observe free and fair elections in the country.

Zaakirah Vadi, executive director at Defend Our Democracy, said the Election Watch campaign was a local observer campaign.

Observers meant to be independent

She stressed observers were meant to be independent.

“Observers are not linked to any political party. They can be from civil society organisations or ordinary citizens. They have access to all voting stations and can watch proceedings from the time stations open to the time they close, and the counting process that follows,” Vadi noted.

“For the campaign, observers will be required to share their feedback from voting stations via an observation app. This feedback will give us live, on-the-ground reports from a number of voting stations,” she said.

She added the information will be collated and analysed to pronounce on the integrity of the electoral process.

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Election Watch

Election Watch is a national civil society campaign aimed at “observing and pronouncing on the integrity of the 2024 national and provincial government elections in South Africa”.

“We aim at ensuring the overall success of the elections through educating and mobilising South Africans to participate in the election process and to become active participants in our democracy,” Election Watch said.

It highlighted that 2024 marked 30 years of democracy and in the past three decades, it had seen positive change, development and transformation. “But also failure, in state capture, corruption, unemployment and poor service delivery.”

Vadi said observers would be looking out for “high-risk issues, such as violence or potential voter intimidation”.

Check whether electorial processed free and fair

They would check whether the electoral processes were free and fair and if voting station processes were in order.

They would observe the counting process, record any disputes that may occur and check whether the final results sheet was made available to all party agents and independent observers.

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“Observers will check that this results sheet is placed in a tamper-proof bag before being transported by the IEC [Electoral Commission of South Africa] presiding officer to the IEC’s regional counting centre,” she said.

Observers needed special accreditation from the IEC.

“Only once the IEC approves their accreditation can an organisation proceed on election day,” Vadi explained.

Voluntary campaign

Election Watch emphasised “this is a voluntary campaign” and asked people to participate.

The model for mobilisation centred the role of organisations.

“So that each organisation sees to the needs of its observers, such as transport to a voting station, food and airtime,” she said.

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“This limits the financial and logistical burden on any one organisation, as each organisation takes on or fields only as many volunteers as it is able to manage.”

The IEC’s response to Election Watch mobilising other civil society movements to be observers was “IEC will publish a list of accredited observers in due course”.

Vadi said the Election Watch campaign was meant to develop a countrywide network of observers, who were, in essence, democracy volunteers.

“This network can be strengthened so we have a better grassroots presence at voting stations come the 2026 and 2029 elections.


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