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2024 elections Parties must refrain from going too far Mashatile on social media campaigning



The deputy president says political parties should campaign on social media ‘without being malicious’.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile has called on political parties to use social media responsibly ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is seeking to combat misinformation and disinformation on social media as the country prepares to head to the polls on 29 May.

This is after the election date was proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.

This year’s national and provincial elections coincide with South Africa’s 30th anniversary of democracy.

‘False claims can erode trust’

Delivering a keynote address at the launch of the principles and guidelines for the use of social media in African elections, Mashatile noted the “fast-paced digital world” of the modern day and its impact on electoral activities.

“We must recognise the important role that social media plays in shaping people’s opinions and establishing the narratives propelled during elections.

“As we witness the increasing use of these platforms in political campaigns, it is imperative that we establish clear principles and guidelines to ensure a fair, transparent, and inclusive electoral process,” he said on Tuesday.

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Mashatile said it was “critical” for people to use social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and others in a constructive manner by spreading “positive messages” about the elections.

The deputy president stressed that misinformation and disinformation was a threat to South Africa’s democracy because they could undermine confidence in the elections.

He also highlighted that such deceptive acts had the potential to suppress voter turnout.

“We have a significant obligation to educate our population about the risks associated with disseminating misinformation, particularly concerning elections, since false claims can erode trust in the electoral process and provoke a wave of anti-voters and instability in our countries,” Mashatile continued.

Tense political environment

Although Mashatile claimed he was confident in South Africa’s electoral processes to deliver free and fair elections “as we have done since 1994”, he warned political parties not to engage in conflict during campaigning.

“I urge political parties that participate in robust debate on social media to uphold ethical standards and refrain from going too far in being unjust, deceptive, or hateful.

READ MORE: Election timetable not a surprise, IEC tells complaining political parties

“We can run campaigns on social media without being malicious or degrading of both individuals and organisations,” the deputy president said.

He added: “The reality is that the political environment during elections is tense and volatile, and we should use social media with responsibility to ensure that the content we share is credible and accurate.”

IEC budget

The IEC is facing financial pressures due to budget cuts imposed by the National Treasury and the implications of the Electoral Amendment Act.

The commission has been allocated R2.3 billion for the 2024/2025 financial year to ensure that it delivers free and fair elections.

However, R30 million has been cut from its budget as part of government’s austerity measures.

Most of the budget would go towards the IEC’s “underfunded” electoral operations programme, which was R1.29bn.

Despite the shortfall, the commission will use the surplus from the previous financial year to cover the programme, pending Treasury approval.

The IEC has two targets in its electoral operations – including to manage free and fair elections in accordance with the applicable electoral timetables as well as maintaining a credible national voters’ roll.

The other programmes included administration, outreach and party funding, with R911.6m, R236.9m and R25m being budgeted for each respectively.

NOW READ: ‘Election train moving’: It’s all systems go for Electoral Commission

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