The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will urgently approach an appropriate court with an application to postpone the local government elections, which was initially scheduled for 27 October.
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini made this announcement when he on Friday briefed the media on the commission accepting the recommendations of retired deputy chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Moseneke found that it would not be possible to have free and fair elections, after the IEC in May asked him to inquire into the likelihood that the IEC will ensure that the local government elections will be free and fair given the Covid-19 pandemic.
The retired justice recommended that the IEC approach a court of competent jurisdiction to seek a just and equitable order for the deferral of the elections to not later than February 2022.
“The Commission unanimously accepts the findings of the Moseneke Report. In particular, the commission notes the rational and central thesis of the report that community immunity through mass vaccination must be considered as a desirable step in the conduct of a safe, free and fair election in the Republic,” Mashinini said.
Among the steps the IEC will now take, is to urgently brief Senior Counsel to launch an application in a court of competent jurisdiction to seek judicial authorisation to conduct the election outside of the constitutionally prescribed time periods.
This could be either the Constitutional Court or the Electoral Court, and the IEC’s Senior Counsel will advise them on which court to approach.
Mashinini said at this stage, the IEC can’t announce a new date for the local government elections. It is dependent on consultations with the administration and other stakeholders, and the IEC doesn’t know if the court will grant it an extension order.
The IEC has decided to defer the registration weekend scheduled for 31 July and 1 August 2021 to enable the steps necessary for the preservation of the lives of the members of electoral staff, political party agents, observers and voters who will ordinarily be in attendance at 23 151 registration stations across the country.
“This decision is grounded on the epidemiological projections advanced in the Moseneke Report as well as the current persisting high levels of Covid-19 infections and mortality in the country,” Mashinini said.
The IEC will announce new dates for the voter registration weekend in due course.
“In the meantime, the Commission reminds all eligible voters that the online registration facility launched recently will continue to provide a safe, convenient and easy way to register as a voter and to update registration details,” he said.
“The Commission appeals for a spirit of calm, support and working together among all stakeholders, in the interest of stability and certainty on the one hand, and at the indispensable need for the preservation of constitutional electoral democracy in the Republic.”
The IEC will also take the following steps:
- Fast-track the measures recommended in the Moseneke Report for the vaccination of staff. Negotiations were already at an advanced stage with the Department of Health.
- Immediately consult with Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the authority responsible for the proclamation of the upcoming general elections of municipal councils and the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Local Government Elections;
- Inform represented political parties, Parliament, the Minister of Home Affairs, SALGA and all other electoral stakeholders of its decisions; and
- A consultation will also be sought with National Treasury regarding the financial implications of the recommendations embodied in the report.
An initial consultation with political parties has already taken place on Friday morning.