The Electoral Code of Conduct

The Electoral Act contains an Electoral Code of Conduct aimed at promoting “conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections” and that create a climate of tolerance, free political campaigning, and open public debate.

As soon as the election date is proclaimed, parties, their agents and candidates commit to adhering to the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct until the election results are officially announced. Failure to do so creates the risk of a party’s candidates or independent candidates being disqualified.

What are the rules of the Electoral Code of Conduct?

  • Parties and candidates must
  • Speak out against political violence and threats against other parties, the Electoral Commission, members of the public and the media
  • Let the authorities know about planned marches or rallies
  • Communicate with other political parties about planned political events
  • Recognise the authority of the Electoral Commission
  • Work with the Electoral Commission structures and allow them to perform their duties
  • Work with the police in their investigation of election crime and violence
  • Accept the results of the election or challenge the result in court.

How does the Electoral Code of Conduct work?

The Electoral Code of Conduct must be agreed to by:

  • every registered party before the party takes part in an election
  • every candidate before he/she is placed on the list of candidates.

Parties and candidates must stick to the code and must:

  • let the public know about the Code
  • promote the purpose of the Code
  • support efforts to educate voters.

Parties and candidates must also inform the public that all people have the right:

  • to be free to express their political beliefs and to be part of any political party
  • to join in any political campaigns, marches or public meetings.

What conduct is prohibited in terms of the Electoral Code of Conduct?

The Electoral Code of Conduct, contained in the Electoral Act, also details a list of prohibited conduct including:

  • Using language which provokes violence
  • Intimidation of candidates or voters
  • Publishing false information about other candidates or parties
  • Plagiarising any other party’s symbols, name or acronyms
  • Offering any inducement or reward to a person to vote for a party
  • Destroying, removing or defacing posters of other parties
  • Carrying arms or weapons at political meetings, marches or rallies
  • Bribing voters to vote or not vote
  • Generally abusing a position of power, privilege or influence to influence the outcome of an election.

What happens when you breach the Code of Conduct?

Any person who breaches the Code is guilty of a criminal offence and can be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years.

Political parties that breach the Code can:

  • be fined up to R200 000 
  • have to give up the party’s election deposit
  • be stopped from working in an area
  • have their votes in an area cancelled
  • can have their party registration cancelled.

What should you do if you suspect a party or a candidate has breached the Electoral Code of Conduct?

In terms of section 78 of the Municipal Electoral Act the Electoral Court has jurisdiction in respect of all electoral disputes and complaints about infringements of the Code, subject to section 20(4) of the Electoral Commission Act.

If you suspect that a party or a candidate has breached the Electoral Code of Conduct, you need to report the incident to Electoral Court. The Secretary of the Court can be contacted on the following telephone number: 051 412-7400.

For the Electoral Court’s rules regulating electoral disputes and complaints about infringements of the Electoral Code of Conduct, and rules regulating the conduct of the proceedings of the Electoral Court, please refer to: