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IEC fires official for leaking political candidate lists

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo
Johannesburg, 12 Mar 2024
IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo. (Photograph source: GCIS)
IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo. (Photograph source: GCIS)

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has fired the employee it identified as the source of the leak of political parties’ candidate lists online.

So said IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo today in an interview with Newzroom Afrika, following the unauthorised disclosure of political parties’ candidates on social media over the weekend.

Candidate lists of political parties – the African National Congress (ANC) and newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe – were splashed on social media, raising the ire of both political parties.

Before the latest developments, the IEC held a press briefing yesterday, when Mamabolo revealed the entity had identified the culprit responsible for the data leak.

The IEC, in a statement, says indications are that the data emanated from internal system-generated reports within the Electoral Commission.

Mamabolo told the news channel that the individual in question held a “relatively junior” position in the IEC.

The chief electoral officer added that besides the ANC and uMkhonto weSizwe’s candidates lists, the staff member also allegedly downloaded other political parties’ information.

He noted the commission has not established the individual’s motive at this stage as investigations are ongoing.

“The [individual’s] computer is being subjected to a forensic analysis. The downloads were not only related to those parties [ANC and uMkhonto weSizwe]. There were a whole lot of other parties that were downloaded.”

He pointed out that the official was given an opportunity to make some representations as to why employment should not be terminated.

“We received the representations, and on that basis, we terminated the relationship of employment.”

Although the IEC has notified the Information Regulator, which enforces SA’s data privacy law − the Protection of Personal Information Act − about the incident, the watchdog wants more details, and has sent an information notice to the IEC.

Responding to the regulator’s concerns, Mamabolo said the commission is now preparing to submit more information required by the watchdog. “We will meet the deadline that they have given us, which is until Friday.”

Among measures the IEC will take to avoid similar leaks in future, he said the organisation will review and limit employee access to the commission’s reporting tools.

“We want to review which category of employees have access to certain information…but also to engage with staff throughout the country about how to handle internal information, especially as it pertains to the personal information of people.”