Hackers try to distort SA poll result

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The Independent Online
THE DISCOVERY of a computer dirty tricks operation to alter the outcome of the South African election stopped the flow of results yesterday, the fifth day since polling ended.

The official count remained static last night at a shade over 50 per cent of the total number of votes cast - exactly as it had stood at nightfall on Tuesday.

Judge Johan Kriegler, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, explained at a press conference yesterday evening that shortly after 6am on Tuesday evidence of 'pollution' had been found in the IEC computer system.

The extent of the alleged fraud was not such, however, as to call into question Nelson Mandela's victory claim on behalf of the African National Congress on Monday night.

Judge Kriegler said a discrepancy between the figures shown in the main and the back-up computer systems had prompted him to call in computer experts to conduct an investigation. 'We are still not clear how precisely it was done,' he said, adding that he did not even know if the tampering had been done by IEC insiders or the system had been penetrated from outside.

He refused to disclose a figure for the number of votes in question. Nor would he say which party had been targeted. But he did acknowledge the votes of one party had been reduced by up to 4 per cent.

The vote counting would not, however, have to start afresh, and he said he was confident the final results would come in on time for the presidential inauguration next Tuesday in Pretoria. 'Extraordinary measures have been taken to ensure the integrity of the result,' he said.

Complicating the tortuous counting exercise further, Judge Kriegler said 'vast numbers of complaints' of irregularities had been received from various parties right across the country. As examples he cited the 'miraculous' discovery of ballots stacked and folded inside ballot boxes, phantom polling stations, and instances of party agents and election monitors being shooed away from polling stations.

Many of the complaints of fraud have come from KwaZulu-Natal, where the outcome of the election for the provincial legislature is likely to be so close that vote-rigging on a relatively small scale could sway the result one way or the other.

One of the IEC's 11 commissioners was dispatched yesterday to Durban to resolve the mess and, according to Judge Kriegler, he succeeded. He declared at the press conference yesterday that all disputes in the province had been resolved. But shortly after, Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary- general, was reported by South African radio to have said that fresh evidence of electoral fraud had been uncovered.

Mr Ramaphosa, who is known to believe that the Inkatha Freedom Party has engaged in large-scale tampering with the polls, said in a statement that he was locked in a meeting with IEC officials to press home his objections.

According to sources in KwaZulu-Natal, up to five times more marked ballot papers emerged at the counting station in the Empangeni area than there were ballots cast. Opportunities for fixing the votes were provided aplenty in the KwaZulu 'homeland', where Inkatha loyalists exercised solitary control over scores of polling stations. But Inkatha officials claimed yesterday there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

LONDON - Britain yesterday pledged more than pounds 100m in aid to South Africa over the next three years, Reuter reports. The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, told Parliament: 'Britain expects to provide over pounds 100m of help . . . This includes pounds 60m of bilateral aid.'

Letters, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

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