The SARFAAS is the regional network of AFAAS in the Southern Africa Region. Its mandate is to coordinate and support the Country Fora (CF) in the region under the watch of the AFAAS Secretariat. One of the challenges it faces – in common with the other regional networks – is ensuring that it’s Governing Board is formed through a democratic process involving holding a physical General Assembly (GA) at which the Board members are elected. It is for this reason that, in 2019, SARFAAS introduced the innovation of electing Board members through an e-election. The process of the e-election was as follows:
- A website was created to manage the e-election process. It had pages with/for (i) information about the SARFAAS Board and its functions; (ii) posting of curriculum vitae by country; (iii) voting, and (iv) results
- Each CF member of SARFAAS was invited to send CVs of two candidates to the SARFAAS Secretary;
- The CVs were posted on the website and members alerted;
- Then online voting was launched for a period of 11 days from 18th of 28th of February 2019. Each voter was requested to vote for the three candidates they wished to sit on the Board for a two-year term i.e. the constitutional provision is for three elected members. Candidates were encouraged to do their own communication campaign during the election period;
- The results were automatically generated on the website.
The results and lessons learnt from the above process were as follows:
- Although this was the first ever e-election organized in AFAAS, it went through without any major glitches. It can therefore be concluded that e-elections can be a viable and low-cost alternative to holding elections by bringing members together physically;
- Eight candidates emerged from five countries, This demonstrates that an e-election can elicit enough candidates from different countries to have a meaningful competition;
- The above notwithstanding, many country members did not propose candidates despite the fact that the message about the election was publicized in the SARFAAS Dgroups network. Furthermore, only 49 members voted. This may imply that members are apathetic to voting for their representatives and/or that they have not fully embraced the e-elections approach;
Based on the above experience SARFAS recommends that the AFAAS Secretariat explores further the e-elections approach with a view to institutionalising it as a way of saving costs and time. For this institutionalisation to be effective the Secretariat would need to identify the organisational levels and the types of elections for which it can be appropriately applied, undertake activities to popularize the approach, and generally enhance members’ awareness of the importance of participating in electing their representatives.
Members elected to the SARFAAS Board through the e-elections (left to right)
- Dr Verona Parkinson (a lady from Mozambique)
- Charlin Heritiana (a young male from Madagascar) and
- Ms Thembi Ngotho (a lady from South Africa)
(Note: The SARFAAS Constitutio provides for four ex officio members of the board – one representative from GFRAS, one from the AFAAS Secretariat, one from CCARDESA and one from SASAE).