The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has defended community journalist Etienne Mare who voted twice in the recent general elections claiming that he was only testing the IEC’s fraud prevention systems.
Mare, editor of online digital news agency, Suburb News, in the Lowveld, had decided to ‘test the system’ after another voter claimed she had managed to cast her vote more than once in Barberton.
Mare visited the St Johns polling station in Barberton, where he cast his first vote. He then voted a second time at the Barberton Town Hall. He recorded the whole incident on video, which he posted online.
He faced charges of contravening Section 88(d) of the Electoral Act by allegedly voting more than once, Section 89(i)(a) for allegedly intentionally making a false statement and Section 90(2) for alleged infringement of secrecy.
“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,” Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said in a statement on Monday.
“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 forum added the difference between Mare and those with ill intentions, was his motivation and concerns around the public interest.
“The fact that he spoilt his second vote is an indication of the fact that he was not trying to subvert the voting process,” Mahlase added.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.