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Letter to Judge Kriegler on receiving his resignation

25 January 1999

Dear Judge Kriegler

As you will undoubtedly be aware, your letter dated 24 January 1999, tendering your resignation as Chairperson of the come as a complete surprise.

Whatever your final course of action with regard to this matter, I would like to respond to some of the matters you raise on your letter.

The meeting on Friday was requested by the Commission and not called by me or the Government.

With regard to the larger question you raise concerning what you categorise as "jurisdictional skirmishes", I would, first of all, like to recall the discussion that Advocate Gumbi, yourself and myself had at my residence in December.

During that discussion, as you will remember, you stated that notwithstanding the disagreements that had taken place between the Commission and the Government, the Constitutional and administrative independence of the Commission had not been compromised.

I do not know what has happened since that discussion which leads you to the conclusion in your letter that " the principle at issue here is the independence of the Commission".

Indeed, at the December meeting to which I have referred, your own view of the stance of the NP and the DP on this issue was that it had no basis in law or fact. In your view the legal actions they had instituted, in so far as they related to the matter of the independence of the Commission, were purely partisan initiatives which you could not understand and of which you strongly disapproved.

The suggestion in your letter that only you stand for the independence of the Commission whereas everybody else concerned, namely, the other Commissioners and the Government, are both willing to and are compromising that independence, is from all points of view, most unfortunate.

The bland assertion you made that the Commission has not been "given the moral and material support to perform its complex and diverse duties", cannot be substantiated by any facts.

Indeed, in a meeting with the CEO of the IEC, on 11 January 1999, I asked him whether the IEC would be faced with any financial shortages during the current financial year. The CEO responded firmly in the negative.

I further asked him whether the budget indicated for the next financial year would be adequate and requested that he should enter into direct negotiations with the DG, State Expenditure, to have this matter sorted out, should there be any problems.

As indicated at the meeting on Friday, to which you refer, I spoke both to the Minister of Finance and the DG, State Expenditure, to ensure that the necessary interaction takes place with the IEC, CEO without problems.

Again, as you will remember, at the meeting on Friday, we reiterated the positions of the Government that the latter is committed to the view that the IEC should discharge its duties well and as an independent Commission, that the Government should do all in its power to assist in ensuring that the registration process and the elections are successful and that the IEC and the Government should work in partnership, without compromising the independence of the IEC.

Indeed, as far back as October 1997, the Commission recognised the need to use the government infrastructure in the discharge of its functions. The relationship between the Commission and the Government is therefore a co-operative one.

I suggested the meeting between the Cabinet and the IEC to enable the entire national government to reiterate this and other positions indicated above directly to the whole IEC.

The meeting would also provide an opportunity for the IEC to indicate which elements in the behaviour of the Government were contrary to the realisation of these objectives, so that these could be addressed.

I am afraid I cannot agree with the view you express tat "it is not necessary to put the Resident and Cabinet to the trouble of a meeting to establish harmony".

Indeed the view expressed at the meeting by the Commission, whose spokesperson, at your request, was the Deputy Chairperson of the IEC, was that we should proceed to convene the meeting.

It would indeed be strange to conclude that the best way to resolve differences that may exist is not to meet.

The suggestion in your letter that the voters` roll that has been compiled so far was not done "free of governmental let or hindrance" and therefore that there has been "loss of manifest impartiality is dangerous in the extreme.

The Commission knows this as well as I do that at no point did the Government interfere with the compilation of the voters` roll. Nowhere has the government interfered with the list of 9 million registered voters which the IEC announce after the first round of registration.

Nothing has been said or done which would suggest any government plans or intention to interfere with the compilation of the roll in future.

There are two things the government has done with regard to the registration process.

It has given funds to the IEC to enable the IEC to do its work.

Secondly, it has assisted the IEC to find volunteers, inside and outside the public service, to carry out the registration work, with a view, among other things, to the prudent utilisation of public funds, consistent with the comments made by the Auditor- General when he reviewed the 1994 accounts of the IEC.

The government has mot interfered with the tasks of the IEC to "evaluate and select, train and motivate, deploy and control officers engaged in the electoral process".

The reference you make to "an irretrievable loss of (the) power" with regard to these matters is entirely without substance and certainly beyond perhaps my primitive comprehension.

I am aware that there are some in our society who are fixated on the notion that our government cannot be trusted to abide by the democratic norms enshrined in our Constitution and laws.

This is despite that fact that the people in government are drawn exactly from among those who sacrificed everything, including their lives, to bring about this democratic order.

Whatever the self-induced prejudices among some of the citizens of our country, that fact remains that those who fought for a democratic South Africa will remain among the front ranks of those who will fight in defence of the democratic order, an important part of which is an independent IEC.

It had been our hope that you would lead the present IEC during the life of its mandate.

I would like to believe that nothing we have done, personally and on behalf of the Government, has suggested that we have been unwilling to give you and the IEC "the moral and material support" you and the IEC need to discharge your responsibilities and to solve any problems that may arise, as they are bound to arise.

You may, nevertheless, decide that you would rather not serve as a member and Chairperson of the IEC. That , of course, is a decision you are free to take and, as you correctly intend,l discuss with the Resident of the Republic..

Those of us who remain will continue to strive to find solutions to any problems that exist, doing the best we can to serve the people of South Africa and further to entrench the democratic order in our country.

We had hoped that you would assist all of us in these processes by bring into play your considerable talents and personality.

I suppose we will have to do the best we can in the circumstances.

Let me also express my sincere appreciation of the important work you have done at the IEC and of the open and honest relationship I hoped we had established.

Yours sincerely

THABO MBEKI