Jacob Zuma’s MK party wants a revote — but what does the law say?

Didn’t Jacob Zuma’s MK party do really well in these elections?

Astonishingly so, exceeding the predictions of almost all pundits and all polls. MK has landed up as the third-largest party in our electoral system, taking home more than 2.3 million votes (14.6% of the total vote share).

This is an unprecedented showing for a party on its election debut in democratic South Africa. The previous record was held by the EFF, which contested elections for the first time in 2014 and bagged a then-unthinkable 1.1 million votes, or 6,35% of the total.

That was considered gobsmacking at the time. But the MK party has smashed past that, and looks to take 58 MPs into the seventh Parliament – more than twice as many as Malema’s party managed in 2014.

So why on Earth would they want to rerun the elections?

If the call was sincere, it would be ludicrously high risk for the MK party – since a revote might well galvanise people who didn’t bother voting on 29 May to swarm the polls on this occasion out of sheer horror at the rise of the MK party.

But the chances are, overwhelmingly, that the call is not sincere. Instead, it likely stems from two factors.

The first is former president Jacob Zuma’s beef with the IEC, since the body initially did not allow the registration of the MK party due to suspicions around the party’s submitted signatures, and subsequently announced that Zuma was ineligible to top the party list as a result of his criminal conviction (a stance subsequently affirmed by the Constitutional Court).

As we know, most forcefully from the entire MK party project, uBaba is not a guy to abandon a grudge easily.

The second explanation for the MK party’s brinkmanship is the one laid out by Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee here: chaos is the point. It’s a demonstration of defiance to the ruling party.

It’s also the first of what is certain to be the calling card of the MK party: attacks on institutions which are fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. Zuma and co need to sow suspicion about the IEC because it lays the ground for what is to come: an onslaught on other institutions like Parliament and the Constitutional Court.   

Leader of the uMkhonto Wesizwe party Jacob Zuma arrives at the IEC results centre in Midrand on 1 June 2024.(Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Ok. Regardless, what have they actually asked for?

Spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said at the party’s press conference on Friday night: “We are engaging with our legal team; they have stated that we should contemplate a revote. We want a total revote.”

This may have been an empty call, however, because the party has also submitted a legal demand to the IEC which contains no mention of an electoral rerun.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dashboard

The letter, which Daily Maverick verified with Ndhlela is authentic, demanded that the IEC extend the timeframe for receiving objections until 10.30pm on Saturday. (The IEC already extended the deadline, but only until 6pm on Saturday.)

MK and a few other aggrieved parties it has partnered with have asked the IEC to delay the announcement of the results, scheduled for 6pm on Sunday, until a satisfactory conclusion has been reached to all the objections.

If not? MK “will have no choice but to consider all their legal options,” says the letter from Boruchowitz Attorneys, which is the firm acting for MK.

Zuma hinted on Saturday night, however, that retaliatory violence – or as he glossed it, “problems” – might also be on the cards if the IEC does not delay the announcement.

Is the revote thing legally possible?

It hasn’t happened before, and apart from anything else it would be financially ruinous for South Africans to rerun elections: we literally can’t afford it.

Could a court order the IEC to rerun elections? Maybe…

But the Electoral Act appears to make no specific provision for an election do-over.

MK party Zuma

uMkhonto Wesizwe party leader Jacob Zuma arrives at the IEC’s National Results Operations Centre in Midrand on 1 June 2024.(Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Section 56 of the legislation says that if a “serious irregularity” is found to have happened at a particular voting station, those votes may be discarded. There’s nothing there about revoting.

The Electoral Act gives the IEC seven days after voting day to declare the results, but does also give the Electoral Court the power to extend this period if there is “good cause shown”.

The law also says that an election may not be set aside “because of a mistake in the conduct of that election or a failure to comply with this Act” unless that mistake or failure “materially affected the result of the election”.

Is the IEC going to delay the results announcement as MK wants?

No. At the IEC press conference on Saturday night, at least, officials were adamant that matters would proceed as scheduled, with the announcement to happen at 6pm on Sunday.

As to how the MK party will respond: let’s wait and see, and pray for cool heads to prevail. DM