Voting method conundrum at conference

Don Makatile

Don Makatile

While technology is largely a welcome relief from the drudgery of old-style practices, it appears delegates at the 52nd ANC national conference were in no hurry to take advantage of the boon.

Conference had to be adjourned on the first day as the 4000-plus men and women tasked with electing the next ANC president could not agree on whether the fairest means to decide the winner was by hand or by machine.

The electoral commission, chaired by veteran activist Bertha Gxowa, had planned on an electronic counting of votes but the delegates were adamant that they preferred it be done manually.

The electoral commission, which comprises among others such notable struggle names as Gertrude Shope, Ruth Mompati, Essop Jassat and Laloo Chiba, thought it had come to conference with its work cut out.

"Counting will take place electronically through the use of a scanner and in the presence of the electoral commission, expanded to include provincial monitors," it had promised.

It had further vowed that "where there is a dispute, manual counting will be used".

On the lips of many who were against the idea of votes being captured electronically was the ill-famed hoax e-mail saga that catapulted IT specialist Muziwendoda Kunene to infamy.

Among the loudest opponents was the ANC Youth League, the known supporters of Jacob Zuma. The league spokesman Zizi Kodwa, playing to the gallery in the already heated plenary hall, voiced out the Young Lions' distrust of the electoral commission's proposed method: "We must eliminate suspicion. Computers are open to manipulation whereas with manual counting, you know you were there when the counting was done and if you lose, you accept (defeat)."

Kodwa's views, widely greeted with applause, came on the heels of a similar idea by another fiery Youth League leader, Sihle Zikalala. "We want manual counting only," Zikalala had intoned earlier, also to rapturous applause.

And despite her best efforts to explain their method had been "used in the previous NEC elections", Gxowa was "shot" down.

By the end of the day, the question "to count or not to count" had its weightier added dimension still unanswered: "How?"