Home Opinion and Features How much will the national, provincial elections cost?

How much will the national, provincial elections cost?

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Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s Budget speech has shown that the upcoming national and provincial elections will not come cheap, as billions of rand have been set aside for the May 29 polls.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa has been allocated billions of rand by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana ahead of the 2024 national and provincial elections on May 29. Picture: Theo Jeptha, Independent Newspapers

FINANCE Minister Enoch Godongwana’s Budget speech has shown that the upcoming national and provincial elections will not come cheap, as billions of rand have been set aside for the May 29 polls.

Godongwana announced on Wednesday that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has been allocated an additional R2.3 billion to ensure the effective discharge of its duties during the elections and its other responsibilities beyond the polls.

The SA Police Service will be supported by the SA National Defence Force during the elections, for which another R350 million has been allocated. A further R200m has been set aside for political party funding as contesting parties prepare.

During deliberations on the Adjustments Appropriation Bill tabled during the November 2023 medium-term budget policy statement, the National Council of Provinces’ select committee on appropriations recommended that Godongwana should approve the rollover of R300m for the Represented Political Party Fund, to assist political parties prepare for this year’s elections.

Budget documents released during Godongwana’s speech also detail more election-related expenditure.

For the IEC, the election period entails procuring, printing, distributing and warehousing registration and election materials, rental and infrastructure payments for about 23,400 voting stations, amendments to ballot papers as a result of legislative changes, as well as the appointment and training of an estimated 350,000 electoral and expansion staff.

The commission also needs to maintain the voters roll, introduce technological improvements such as rewriting candidate nomination, ballot generation and election result systems, and procure a building for its national office.

According to the estimates of national expenditure, these activities are expected to result in expenditure of R3.4bn over the medium-term expenditure framework period, which is from 2024/25 to 2026/27.

The IEC also plans to undertake extensive civic education and communication campaigns ahead of the elections, and a national registration event in the run-up to the 2026 municipal polls, including a communication strategy to inform and educate citizens on the recently amended Electoral Act, which allows independent candidates to contest national and provincial polls.

It hopes these campaigns will keep the electorate informed and improve voter turnout.

The five registration drives held from November 2013 to March 2018 cost over R1.2bn (or each between R195m and R315m), while the IEC had budgeted R419m for the February 2019 registration drive before the last national and provincial elections including R32m for more staff members per voting station and R17m for an additional training day on the new voter registration devices.

The commission’s expenditure is expected to decrease at an average annual rate of 8.5%, from R3.1bn in the current financial year (2023/24) to R2.4bn in 2026/27, in line with the end of the election period.

This will mainly be driven by Cabinet-approved budget reductions and a decrease in spending on compensation of employees, goods and services as the contracts of expansion and election staff hired ahead of the 2024 elections are terminated.

The budget documents also show that the SABC has set aside R35m for its elections coverage, while the Government Communication and Information System will be responsible for disseminating key messages and information on the presidential inauguration after the polls, among others, from its R73.2m allocation for content processing and dissemination.

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