Election Resources

It’s never been easier to find the information you need to report on the upcoming August 3 local government elections in South Africa – if you know where to look. The good news is that Code for South Africa has made the job much easier by curating a variety of useful resources and creating some free infographics for your blog or website.

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But this is not just a one-stop source for information; if you take the time to dig through the different resources you’ll find lots of great story ideas. A recurring one for municipal elections, for example, is how it differs from national and provincial elections, something many voters are still unaware of.

In a General Election voters cast their vote for a party, not an individual and parties are designated seats in Parliament in proportion to the percentage of the vote the receive. Parties then allocate MPs seats according to a list drawn up by parties and submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) before the elections.

But municipal elections use a ‘mixed system’ that is quite different to provincial and national elections, in which people vote directly for ward candidates based on the ‘first past the post’ system. They also get a second vote for a party which is the allocated PR seats based on the percentage of votes they get across all municipal wards. And in the case of a district council, made up of several smaller councils, voters get a third vote for a party to elect district councillors (except in metropolitans, which are classified as big cities).

Slightly complicated to explain, but important for voters to know when they show up at the polls. So perhaps a good story to start with is an explanation of how the electoral system works in SA. Or perhaps a quiz for your readers/viewers/listeners as a way of educating them?

But it’s also important to remember that these elections are all about people and their issues. So, whatever info you find, you need to get out into the field and speak to people in order to put a human face to your story. These elections are one of the few times that people can raise issues – and the politicians are listening. And you can help amplify their voices.

 

RESOURCES

The Independent Electoral Commission website should be your first stop for election information. Get the election timetable, find your current ward councillor, voting station, keep track of election results and more.

The IEC’s 2016 Municipal Elections Handbook has a lot of the online information in one downloadable PDF document. Electing Councillors: A Guide to Municipal Elections is a comprehensive guide detailing the electoral process and the rules and regulations governing it. This Municipal Elections Handbook from The Education and Training Unit for Democracy and Development is a nifty guide – with examples – to explain the electoral system and how it works.

Source election results from the last municipal elections at Wazimap along with rich 2011 Census data on a ward, municipal, provincial and countrywide.

A list of links to municipal financial documents and resources including financial statements for each municipality since 2002/3, municipal budgets – drafted and adopted, audit reports and more.

The Independent Electoral Commission have released the names of election candidates by province, including ID numbers, so you can do deeds office and CIPRA listings for them. You can download the PDF by province here or find the full list in an easy-to-use spreadsheet.

Has the City of Cape Town delivered on their sanitation goals? This interactive map of toilets in informal settlements lists all the kinds of toilets – or lack of – in informal settlements across Cape Town, Dig through it to find all kinds of stories. Tip: look at the ages of different settlements, the number of permanent toilets and the reasons (“restraints”) for not providing more permanent infrastructure.

The Municipal Demarcation Board is responsible for municipal boundaries – which have just been changed. Some wards have completely disappeared while others have merged or grown. See the Board’s website for more information.

Check out these free-to-use Elections 2016 infographics by People’s Assembly to embed on your website, blog or social media. NB: you need to credit to People’s Assembly and also send them an email to let them know you’ve used it. Elections readiness and Women and the 2016 elections

Code for South Africa has designed these free-to-use infographics explaining how our voting system works, how the candidates are divided amongst the parties, and how our system allows for “double agents”. Simply embed the codes above the graphic into your website or blog.

If we’ve missed anything, please let us know via our Election Resource Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSezsbty760yN-s8XnBo3u8Nor9d0GrCEx0Gpsk8PDFD1N6AJQ/viewform

Resource List

How the elections work

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/14982467-municipal-elections-2016

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The candidates

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/14984584-double-agents

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Start cooking SA newsrooms, because data is the new bacon

I remember how our journalism head of department at university used to tell us about how newsrooms have been juniorised. But what really got my attention from his sessions was how he used to emphasise the need for newsrooms to evolve, as the whole print media was under threat because of the emergence of new media.

I asked myself many questions, like “why am I still studying towards this ‘endangered’ career?”, because I realised that he had a point. A change of mind set is needed, so that newsrooms can move from being “traditional” newsrooms to newsrooms that are digital-and-multimedia driven. This is what media owners must urgently consider.

This is what I have come to believe, during just over two months as part of the Code for SA Data Journalism Academy. Data journalism is a fairly new term in the South African media industry and a rare phrase in most newsrooms. Most journalists are still heavily inclined towards traditional, print journalism, and tend to shy away from digital platforms, as well as stories that are told graphically.

As part of the Academy, we are required to produce data-driven articles for our respective newspapers. My first story was about public office bearers’ remuneration. The data, sourced from the Remuneration Commission, was public knowledge and was a bit of an “old story”, but I focused on the salaries of South Africa’s kings and queens as my starting point. When I received the data set on kings and queens I really could not suss out a good news angle that my publication Daily Dispatch had not yet exploited.
So, I looked for parallels between the recently-published public office bearers’ remuneration packages (with a special focus on traditional leaders) and the salary of the abaThembu king, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.

Dalindyebo had been in the news recently, after reports surfaced that he was still receiving his R1.1 million annual salary, despite being convicted of assault and arson, and sentenced to 12 years behind bars. If the data showed an interesting correlation or discrepancy between other salaries and Dalindyebo’s, I knew this could possibly be the news angle I needed.

What I needed to solicit from the data was:

  1. How much does Dalindyebo get paid?
  2. Has he been getting his salary while in prison?
  3. How much does the Zulu king, King Goodwill Zwelithini get paid and how does this compare to the salaries of other traditional leaders?
  4. Why are the different kings and queens paid differently? (Unfortunately, getting the overall package that Zwelithini receives from government was a challenge.)

I sent questions to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to get more information and clarification. They told me that they wanted to recoup King Dalindyebo’s February salary, and I decided to go with this angle.

For comment on this, I contacted the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and they indicated that they will be seeking a legal opinion regarding the announcement by Cogta.

This was finally my angle, and I used the data to set out a bigger picture of the issue of the kings and queens’ salaries. I also compared the kings’ salaries to that of the National House of Traditional Leaders chairperson’s, using a viz.

This was important because the chairperson is arguably the most senior traditional leader who is the go-between between communities living under traditional rule and government – a very important role.

Once we had all our information, and the viz was generated, we were ready to publish, and the article was published on DispatchLive.

I have learnt that one of the pitfalls of data journalism is that, often everything starts with the data, rather than starting with the story idea and then soliciting the data. However, the experience has been like a roller coaster ride, with ups and downs, and it has given me great experience to take home.

The training is quite something. It has taken most of us here out of our comfort zones. There is extensive use of Excel, which most of us have never used before and are rarely required to use at work. As someone that has never loved numbers, the course has challenged me to brush-up whatever maths skills I might still have.

But do not despair. Data journalism is not mathematics, but rather a revolutionary way of practising journalism. As they say at Code for South Africa, data is the new bacon. Costa Rican data journalist and editor of La Nacion, Hassel Fallas says data-driven journalism is a necessity because of the precision and trustworthiness of data, that editors can present (as a fact) to their readership.

“In Latin America, data-driven journalism is not a fad. It is the present and future of journalism. It is a necessity, an opportunity and a constant state of innovation,” she says.

The time has also come for journalism in South Africa to follow suit and explore these exciting and innovative data-driven journalism ventures.

Resources

Dispatch Live

You can’t Google this.

“You can’t Google this,” said Richard Gevers (@richardgevers), founder of Open Data Durban. We were a couple of weeks in at the Code for South Africa Data Journalism Academy, enjoying a well-earned glass of overpriced wine at one of those Cape Town bars where you are always under-dressed.

Conversation turned to the events of the last two weeks – an intensive two week introduction to everything data journalism-related, for our first cohort of Academy residents. Spreadsheets, data wrangling, story-telling tools, visualisations, scraping, and then some.

Gevers, who was in town to do a training session at the Academy, was also here to facilitate an incubation bootcamp at the new Codebridge civic tech hub.

As our conversation excitedly turned to these new Code for South Africa projects, Gevers intervened with the phrase that articulated it better than any of us could: “You can’t Google this.”

And you can’t. This is the first newsroom and Academy specialising in data-driven journalism in Africa. There’s been data journalism training before, but never quite like this. Working journalists are nominated by their newsrooms to attend three months of comprehensive training about data-driven journalism.

We want to do more than give journalists additional skills. We want to grow data journalism in newsrooms by fully equipping journalists with everything they need to become specialists in the field.

The first thing you will learn at the Academy is that data journalism is just journalism. It may be driven by data, but the same rules apply. The means may differ, but the ethics of the profession remain. Data is a source to be interrogated and properly verified, like any other.

Accurate data gives readers information that can help them make informed decisions, and the world around them becomes a bit easier to understand.

Data matters, because hidden between the numbers and the spreadsheets and the endless reams of documents, gems of information hide from journalists who don’t have the skills to find them.

The second thing you will learn at the Academy is: You know nothing, Jon Snow. (With apologies to the three of you who don’t watch Game of Thrones.)

Think you can wrangle data? Wait until you train with Daniela Lépiz from Costa Rica, with her Masters degree in Data Journalism, who uncovered the way that private energy producers were scamming Spaniards out of millions in the name of profit-seeking.

Think you can make a visualisation and embed it on your website? You haven’t met our developers yet, who built a tax clock that can tell you where your tax money is going.

These are the best experts in the field, and they’re a part of this Academy.

This is, I believe, hands down the most exciting thing happening in journalism right now.

Diary meetings are spent workshopping data stories. Journalists sit down with data wranglers to find stories in massive data sets. Our team is constantly thinking of innovative ways to use technology to visualise and simplify complex stories, and hopefully produce visualisations that are more than infographics, that can be used online and in print. Video, graphs, interactive maps, narrative writing – the more innovative, the better.

We’re well into our third month as an Academy, and a journalist opens a spreadsheet. In the space of half an hour, he has found a story in the data, made two graphs, found a way to make a tricky scraping tool work better, and has made a list of experts he can talk to.

And I think, “I think I have a data journalist, here.”

Just across the passage, there’s a team of specialists preparing for another day’s training, and wrestling data sets from sometimes uncooperative sources.

Tomorrow they all converge, like they do every day, and they make data journalism. It’s an academy and a civic tech lab, an open data initiative and a newsroom, and a data journalism laboratory, under one roof. And you can’t Google that.