By Bahle Gama
THE Attorney General (AG) has opposed an application by alleged Futis Chicken Cottage employees to vote at their boss’ constituency.
A group of 16 people believed to be employees of Futis Chicken Cottage, a popular eatery owned by Vusi Dlamini have applied to the High Court where they submitted that their right to vote was violated when they were disallowed to vote for Futis Director, Vusi Dlamini in the Primary Elections Dlamini was a Sigangeni Member of Parliament nominee who bit the dust in the election race at the primary stage.
After losing the race to the final stage of the election by seven votes, Dlamini wrote a letter to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) asking it to reinstate some of his votes. Dlamini wrote the letter that the claimed employees were turned back at Sigangeni and restricted from voting.
In an affidavit deposed by the first applicant, Rosetta Munro she submitted that on August 26, upon arriving at Sigangeni Polling Station, she along with 15 others were denied entry into the polling station despite producing voting cards as proof that were registered to vote under Siphocosini Inkhundla and their names appeared in the voter’s roll.
They (applicants) further submitted that they then requested the assistance of the police officers who were present at the polling station, but their efforts were unsuccessful, adding that they duly left the polling station without casting their votes.
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According to Munro, their preferred candidate (Vusi Dlamini) tried to speak to the EBC officers in an attempt to allow them to cast their votes, but his attempts were also in vain. On the following day, August 29, Dlamini filed a complaint with the EBC regarding what transpired on the previous day. The applicants also alleged that they learned that other community members were denied entry into the polling station and the EBC opted not to do anything to date to address the situation.
“This is extremely unfortunate given that the EBC has been driving a huge campaign, encouraging us to register and vote as a nation. The apathy shown by the EBC is regrettable and embarrassing. We are adamant that our names appear on the relevant voters register at Sigangeni polling station,” Munro said. Munro further stated that it had not been shared or communicated which candidate they intended to vote for.
She said the court would notice the difference in voters for the declared winner and the eventual runner-up, which is Dlamini. “The difference is a total of seven and it is for that reason that we believe that our number could have a great impact on the results regardless of which candidate each of us would have voted for,” she said.
According to the applicants, the matter involves a violation of one’s constitutional right to vote and by their nature, matters of individual rights ought to be treated urgently. They further stated that the results of the primary elections were released while their grievances had not been addressed. Munro further said that the Secondary Elections are on September 29 and the matter ought to have been disposed of by then out of fear that they might be denied access to the polling station again thus violating their right to vote.
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“Bringing the matter under the normal timelines will therefore render the result of this matter academic.”
They further explained why the matter was not filed at an earlier stage stating that they had duly notified the EBC of the violation of their constitutional right. In a response letter dated August 31 from EBC to Futis Director, it said the voters were turned back because it was believed that they belonged to his community.
Another complaint that was addressed by the EBC was that which was that of Dlamini’s votes which were found in the wrong ballot box of Indvuna Yenkhundla and were later declared invalid during the counting.
In this regard, the Commission stated that the matter about the special voting exercise is an issue of procedure for the counting of votes which was supposed to be addressed in the polling station.
It stated that this is in terms of Section 66 of the Elections Act and the decision of the returning and presiding officers about the ballot paper is reviewable by the High Court. On the point of violating Dlamini’s right to vote, the EBC stated that Dlamini’s right to vote had not been violated but these were allegations based on hearsay.
The EBC said instead, the alleged violation of the right to vote applied to Munro and the others.
The EBC further stated that if there was indeed a denial of the right to vote for the alleged unidentified voters, then the Director needed to assist the Commission with more information to ensure a proper investigation of the matter.
“In any case, the Commission is constrained from allowing the unidentified voters to cast their votes outside the gazetted dates as prescribed by law.”
The matter returns to court on September 25 for arguments and the AG will file an answering affidavit on September 21 and it will be heard on September 22.