13 May 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is concerned about the arrest of a Mpumalanga, community media editor, last Friday, Etienne Mare.
On 8 May, the day of the elections, Mare posted a video online claiming that he was on his way to vote for a second time after hearing from a female voter that she had been able to vote several times. He wanted to test the IEC’s voting systems. In the video he showed that it was easy to rub off the indelible ink mark on his thumb – a supposed fail-safe system to prevent citizens from voting twice. Mare specifically spoilt this second vote so that it would have no impact on the election results.
The South African Police Service in Mpumalanga tracked down Mare and the voter on Friday. Both appeared in the Baberton Magistrates Court on charges of contravening Section 88(d), voting more than once, Section 89(i)(a) intentionally making a false statement and Section 90(2) infringement of secrecy of the Electoral Commission Act, 1996.
SANEF does not believe that journalists are above the law and we are aware of the fact that it is an offence to vote twice. However, it appears that Mare was genuinely operating in the public interest. He resorted to these measures to conclusively test the IEC systems with the purpose of highlighting possible electoral fraud. The fact that he spoilt his second vote is an indication of the fact that he was not trying to subvert the voting process.
SANEF is looking at ways to offer legal support.
For more information please contact:
- Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, 083 399 2852
- Sam Mkokeli – SANEF Media Freedom, 082 084 2051
- Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director, 082 926 6404