Despite being the economic engine of Southern Africa and the continent at large with “Western-standard” institutions, South Africa is at risk of two main types of factors catalytic to election related violence endemic also to the region's poorest countries. The first relates to factors external to electoral processes, in other words factors that exist separately from elections - which concern the broader socio-economic environment in a given location, often stemming from socio-economic injustice and inequalities. Conflict and violence that exist in the given social context – as demonstrated by public protests - can spill over into electoral processes and affect election management and electoral security. There are also factors that are internal to electoral processes and those that have potential to exacerbate existing conflicts and trigger election related violence. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) are collaborating in the area of conflict prevention, mitigation and management since 2016. The collaboration has not been limited to activities only in South Africa, but extended to other countries in the SADC region where IEC and ECES have jointly provided technical support to electoral stakeholders during the ECES-developed Leadership and Conflict Management Training for Electoral Stakeholders (LEAD) such as in Lesotho (September 2016), Mozambique (December 2016), Zimbabwe (2017) and an international election conflict prevention conference in the European Parliament in Brussels (June 2017).
Following intensified collaborations between ECES and IEC in 2016, culminating around the local elections in August 2016, the two organisations crafted a proposal which sought a robust collaboration framework on conflict management in South Africa. The proposal was built on the outcomes of two workshops in South Africa, planned and funded thanks to an ECES-implemented regional conflict prevention programme entitled “Preventing Election Related Conflict and potential Violence in Southern Africa” (abbreviated PEV SADC), which South Africa was part of. The workshops took place in June respectively July 2016.
While this project however draws on the many lessons learned from the regional conflict prevention project, it focuses uniquely on issues of conflict prevention and management around the approaching electoral process in South Africa. The IEC and ECES are jointly implementing the PEV-RSA project as applicant and co-applicant.
As such, the project office is set up in such a way that frequent interaction and coordination can take place unhindered between the IEC and ECES, via the facility of the joint project. The IEC and ECES are legal partners under this EU funded project, which saw a specific partnership agreement on terms and conditions for a general collaboration framework even before the project was established, signed 3 October 2017.