9 August 2008
Women nominees divided over civil servants' participation in elections
Stories by Ackel Zwane
There is confusion on the status of civil servants regarding their participation in the upcoming national elections.
Meeting yesterday at the Tum’s George Hotel, the women said the confusion on whether civil servants should participate or not was a stumbling block on what is to be done next now that the nomination stage is over. The senstisation meeting was organised by the Coordinating Assembly of Non-governmental Organisations (CANGO) under the ‘vote for a woman’ campaign.
Portia Simelane, a civil servant from Tikhuba North, was first to declare that she was a civil servant who was nominated yet she did not have the permission from her employer granting her leave of absence for the five year period she would be away if elected for the parliamentary seat. She made her declarations after strong condemnation from other women that the civil servants were disturbing the process because the law barred them from participation if they did not have the permission. She said she went to her polling station as other registered voters but did not know that she would be nominated. She said she accepted the nomination voluntarily mainly because the constitution also allows that she may be nominated without the permission condition. But Stella Lukhele, a former MP and former cabinet minister, clarified that in terms of the law the permission must be presented at nomination.
“The problem is when were we to get permission, before the nomination or after given that the process started at very short notice. The employer forces the employee to take the five years at once and disappears for the five years,” said Simelane.
Mamane Sukati from Mphembekati said it was important to begin now to resolve the impasse ahead of the next election in 2013, a suggestion met with reservations.
“Let's get the permission now for the 2013 election. It is unfortunate that my sister here (Simelane) was caught off guard.”
On the other hand, Duduzile Dube of Luhlangotsini came in defence of civil servants and said they were discriminated against. She said it was important that elections should be free and fair.
“If civil servants are to take a five year leave of absence and lose the election this would definitely lead to poverty and suffering for the civil servant and his/her family,”
Lukhele suggested that CANGO should rush to the Elctions and Boundary Commission to appeal that all the candidates who have been nominated be given the permission. This suggestion was met with unwavering opposition because other women felt that would allow civil servants unfair advantage over those who were nominated on a clean slate. This was also because that would open floodgates to those who did not go for the nominations because they feared they did not have the permission from their employer.
“That would cause confusion in the entire country.
"Let us go to parliament and attend to the problem once inside,” said a participant.
Iris Mamba from Ngculwini got hot under the collar and cited the case of a Regional Education Officer who was allowed into the nomination even though he did not have the letter granting him leave of absence. This was after the presiding officer requested the letter. The residing officer called the EBC and was allegedly instructed to go ahead and register the REO much to the chagrin of other nominees.
CANGO registered the concerns and was to submit them to EBC with immediate effect.