Pharmacists livid at ‘irregular’ election
Disgruntled members question IEC’s ability if it can’t even manage a council election
A group of pharmacists are claiming the elections of their regulatory council were irregular.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) approved the elections but disgruntled pharmacists sent a letter to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Friday to complain. The group asked the minister to ensure the outgoing pharmacy council does not accept the election results. The nine winners nominated to the SA Pharmacy Council are white, but 46 of the 72 nominees were Indian, black, or coloured. Those questioning the election results say the race of the winners is further evidence of an irregular election. They claim many pharmacists who voted did not have their ballots collected by courier and so their votes were excluded.
The SA Pharmacy Council runs elections every five years for nine pharmacists to represent its members. The health minister chooses the other 16 members of a 25-member council that regulates the profession, writes regulations, and issues fines for broken laws or disbars criminal or negligent pharmacists.
Nominees who challenged the election results say they had contacted the council several times with written complaints that their ballots had been excluded. Times Select has seen numerous e-mails complaining about the election process.
In the petition to Motsoaledi, the pharmacists say their complaints were not addressed by the IEC. The IEC ruled the election free and fair according to a letter sent by the SA Pharmacy Council on October 4 that listed the nine winners.
The petition states: “The role of the IEC throughout the process is questionable. As it was never made clear what their role in the election process would be [sic].
“There is no adequate evidence that the IEC handled election complaints and conducted investigations and no outcome was communicated to most of the complainants.”
The IEC witnessed counting of ballots but it is not clear if it was aware of the claim that many ballots had not been not collected and included. Other complaints are: Pharmacists had to vote on a ballot delivered by courier and then sent back to the council. But many say they didn’t get ballots delivered by couriers and even more claim their ballots weren’t fetched. They also say many pharmacists phoned the council’s legal advisor to repeatedly explain their ballots had not been fetched and were told “not to worry”. The petition states multiple pharmacists received more than one ballot, allowing them to vote more than once if they wished. Votes were accepted by the council after the election closing date. The counting of votes was delayed and no reasons were given for this. Pharmacist Shafrudeen Amod said: “The Pharmacy Council has long been considered an inept organisation that misunderstood its function. Let this be a clarion call to pharmacists to suit up and take on a new fight and challenge the Pharmacy Council. It’s simple: if a statutory body can bungle up a simple election how can they be trusted to oversee the profession and protect the public? A commission of inquiry is urgently required to look into the malfunctioning of the council.”
Most of the winners are academic pharmacists working at universities, most commonly the University of the North West, rather than pharmacists serving customers at shops.
One pharmacist wrote to the SA Pharmacy Council’s legal adviser, Debbie Hoffmann, saying: “The numerous complaints of non-delivery of ballot forms and non-collection of ballot forms were not adequately addressed.
“In addition, I also highlighted that in many cases the delivery address was changed to the person’s work address without the pharmacist’s permission, which could have also contributed to the non-delivery of ballot forms. I am very curious to know how the IEC addressed these issues.” The petition asks Motsoaledi to ensure there are new elections, as well as an investigation into the recent elections, and that information is made public about how many votes were collected, how many spoilt votes there were and what each nominee scored.
‘Free and fair’
Amos Masango, the registrar and CEO of the South African Pharmacy Council, said that, as detailed in the Pharmacy Act, there are “measures as well as checks and balances” to ensure council elections are always free and fair.
“We assure pharmacists and all affected parties that the 2018 council elections were inclusive, transparent and fair. The ballot counting was also open to all nominees for observation. In addition, the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa was both driving and overseeing the entire election process from the nomination phase to vote counting.”
The elections committee was finalising an elections report, which would be made public this week. “Until such time it would be irregular and pre-emptive for the South African Pharmacy Council to make pronouncements on the nitty gritties of the process.
“While we are unaware of any petition of the results, all petitions lodged will be handled in line with the regulations relating to the election of members of the (council) once the elections report has been finalised.”