Accept IEC's criticism

I WOULD like to concede chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya's criticism around the matter of 64% of eligible voters not having participated in the elections ("Some 59% of eligible SA citizens voted", May 19). In the earlier part of the column he commented on ("64% of voters didn't vote", May 15), I in fact indicated the percentage of those who participated as 56.5%. That would mean those who did not participate would make up 43.5%.

The paragraph which introduced the confusion deals with the percentage of votes captured by the ruling party in relation to the total of potential or eligible voters. What I should have asserted is that the ruling party derived a mandate from less than some 66% of eligible voters.

I accept Moepya's criticism that my assertion on this matter was "startling and flawed".

The remainder of his letter I would however like to contest. Moepya indicates the number of registered voters was certified as 25390150 on the March 5 and the "figure has never vacillated". On May 7 the IEC's website showed the number of registered voters as 24.1 million.

Moepya says the IEC had a certified number which was approximately one million higher as early as March 5. It is possible that the IEC's website was not updated on May 7, but in that case you don't suggest that those who used your information before you updated it are wrong.

I consulted the website at least five times on May 9 and twice on May 10. I found the refusal of the number of registered voters to stand still quite irritating because it hampered my work.

If Moepya relied on the website for his work, he would know that the "figure vacillated". If the correct figure was 25390150 and not 24.1 million, then 25390150 should have stood still throughout May 9.

According to Moepya, I "boosted" my "number of potential voters" by 5.4%. I did make an adjustment to the figures of eligible voters indicated by StatsSA by 5.4% and I was up front about it.

If the IEC did not want to leave that open to observers, it should have made the adjustment itself. What it did, instead, was to effect an adjustment on the side of registered voters only, and left the figure about eligible voters where it was in November last year, although both the 31.4 million eligible voters and the 24.1 million registered voters had been released at the same time.

I did not adjust South Africa's population figures by 5.4%. What I argued was that if we accept that the number of registered voters increased by 5.4% between November last year and May this year, it stands to reason that in the same period there were a number of young South Africans who turned 18.

Consistency required that both figures be adjusted.

Moepya argues it is impossible to verify the percentage of eligible voters who did not participate in the 1994 elections. For the past 20 years people who have been analysing our voting patterns have been saying in 1994 the eligible voter turnout was in the order of 86.9%.

The difference between 100% and 86.9% is 13.1%.

But suppose the argument is that nobody can know, in principle, how many eligible voters there are in South Africa. Then I am struck dumb by the fact that Moepya does not seem to have a problem with StatsSA's figure of 31.4 million eligible voters.

If it was possible to know that in November last year, I am unable to see why, in principle, it would have been impossible in April 1994.

The Herald columnist Mandla Seleoane