‘IEC Leak Revolting, But Being Handled Internally,’ Says IEC Chief

IEC’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, says an internal investigation has identified the suspect responsible for the leak.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa has responded decisively to address concerns about the security of its systems after the leak of sensitive information from the lists of candidates of the African National Congress (ANC) and Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) political parties.

An official from the country’s independent elections management body has been identified through a preliminary investigation, according to the IEC’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo.

Mamabolo was addressing the media at the IEC offices in Pretoria on Monday evening, March 11, 2024.

“On Saturday, March 9, 2024, the commission reported that it had become aware of lists of candidates that were being circulated on social media platforms. Additionally, the commission indicated that the lists contained hallmarks of information that suggested the information emanated from a user inside the commission. For that reason, an inquiry was instituted to establish the circumstances of the unauthorized circulation and the person or persons responsible,” said Mamabolo.

Investigations conducted by the IEC over the weekend and into Monday have pinpointed the source of the disclosure to a workstation that has been utilized for generating and storing reports with candidate lists, the IEC boss said. Mamabolo said the unnamed official has been asked to give reasons why their employment contract should not be terminated.

“Later, the said reports were deleted from the workstation. Earlier today, that workstation was secured and imaged in the presence of the official whose credentials were used to generate the reports. A forensic analysis of that computer is currently underway. The commission reiterates its regret for the unauthorized disclosure of the lists and the disclosure of personal information about the candidates on those lists,” he said.

Mamabolo recognized concerns raised by the ANC, leading to the involvement in the matter of South Africa’s Information Regulator, which was alerted to the breach by the IEC.

He mentioned that the IEC was working together with the regulator to guarantee accurate information from their investigation was shared.

The IEC’s remedial action also included discussions with the official who is suspected of being involved in the circulation of the lists.

“Corrective action in terms of applicable labor laws is underway, and the official has been requested to make representations as to why their contract of employment should not be terminated,” said Mamabolo.

When asked about the credibility of the IEC and the possibility of political parties weaponizing the leak, Mamabolo expressed revulsion over the incident.

“As far as we are aware, only two parties were affected by the unauthorized disclosure of the lists of candidates. A number of actions have been taken since the matter came to light on Friday. Access to the reports section of the candidates nomination system has been scaled down to ensure that there isn’t wanton access to the section. There is also heightened awareness created to all staff members.

“At the moment, the established facts indicate that there was one person [involved]. The credibility of the commission is not dependent on a single factor. The credibility of the commission is inbuilt in the legal framework within which it is structured. The incident that we are reporting this evening is revolting and it ought to not have happened, but that is not the totality of the determinant of the credibility of the commission,” said Mamabolo.

During the weekend, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed concern about the leak but also highlighted their satisfaction with how the commission was addressing the issue.

“We have been in discussion with them. They have informed us that it was just a glitch. It is not representative of the IEC,” said Ramaphosa.



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