The IEC has had to fight against incorrect information shared about the elections on social media. 

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa has had to add another dimension to its activities during the 2019 general elections; fighting the spread and scourge of misinformation and disinformation shared by individuals via social media platforms.

Voting day, May 8, started with a widely circulated Twitter video in which Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema slammed IEC officials who purportedly asked his wife, Mantwa Malema, to remove her artificial nails before casting her vote in order to be properly inked.

“There was some IEC staff member who said to my wife she must take off her fake nails so that they put a mark. I found that bizarre because I said to her: where is that written in the rules that women who have long nails can’t vote?”

The IEC quickly responded to other forms of the same misinformation which claimed that women with fake, gel or acrylic nails would not be allowed to vote.

In another instance, a whatsapp message was circulated saying that ballot papers were not being stamped by electoral officials thereby rendering them invalid. The IEC took to social media to correct the claims and urged voters to ensure that their ballot papers are stamped.

An IEC call centre agent who asked to remain anonymous told Wits Vuvuzela that any voter can call their offices at any time when they have queries and they are unsure about the rules of the elections.

According to the agent, “The agents will assist you with any queries and we prioritize any issues that come directly from the voting stations. If people are being chased away for invalid reasons we want to receive this information so that people can place their votes on time.”

Independent media organisation Media Monitoring Africa has also partnered with the IEC to create a tool to tackle digital disinformation during the elections.

The complaints submitted to the website (real411.org.za) are assessed by members of the IEC in line with the Electoral Act which forbids the publication of false statements during the election period.