Left unattended, social media could affect the integrity of elections: Sy Mamabolo

South Africa’s Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo, has cautioned that if social media could be left unattended, it could have negative consequences and affect the integrity of elections.

He made these remarks on the last day of a validation workshop at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Representatives of the 15 electoral management bodies in attendance made inputs on the guidelines and principles for the use of digital and social media in elections in Africa.

Delegates had robust engagements as they made their inputs in what will formulate new electoral guidelines for elections across the continent.

The two-day validation workshop was lauded as a groundbreaking initiative which seeks to protect the integrity of the elections. But there was a word of caution from the electoral management body that was facilitating the process.

“If left unattended, social media can impact the elections in a detrimental way. This, therefore, calls for a collective response to combat this issue,” says Mamabolo.


As part of the inputs made at the workshop, a call was made for the protection of women in politics and women in Journalism from abuse on social media.

Tanzanian Member of Parliament, Neema Lugangira, recalls how she suffered abuse online as a result of being vocal in her country’s parliament.

“Democracy and digital are intertwined. You can separate digital from democracy and with that, it has created lots of good opportunities and bad opportunities, in the sense that the online space has been ungoverned for so long. So, people have been free to behave in a manner of which, offline they would not do. Overtime, this has created a huge problem amongst politicians, particularly women because I was vocal. I’m in parliament, I became a target on social media many people accused me of things I did not do,” says Lugangira.

Lugangira says social media platforms have a responsibility to contribute to digital democracy, something the representatives of the social media platforms agree with.

“There are policies that we have in place that will safeguard the protection of people’s rights,” says Abongile Mashele, Google.

“The integrity of the electoral process is a top priority for Meta,” says Fargani Tambeayuk, Meta.

“We have managed to partner with EMBS during elections,” says Fortune Sibanda, Tiktok.

Meanwhile, various representatives from the African Union and ECOWAS lauded the IEC and the Association of African Electoral Authorities (AAEA) on the work done in facilitating this process.

The General Council of the AAEA will adopt the guidelines that were discussed during the validation workshop in November.

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