Coronavirus: Electoral Commission to request postponement of by-elections at Electoral Court
Johannesburg – The Electoral Commission of South Africa said on Monday it would urgently approach the Electoral Court to request a postponement of all scheduled by-elections as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 20 by-elections around the country will be affected.
On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster and confirmed more than 60 people - which also now includes local transmissions - were infected with coronavirus in the country.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the decision followed the president’s Sunday night announcement which prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people to contain the virus spreading.
“The election process involves relative close physical contact between election officials and voters including the exchange of ballot papers and inking of thumbs.
“At the end of the voting process, ballot papers must also be counted. Where an infected voter has handled a ballot, indications are that active viruses will last for at least 10 hours.
“This will be yet another opportunity for cross infection of officials conducting the counting process. Given heightened awareness and concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic there is also a real possibility that significant numbers of voters may stay away from voting stations in upcoming by-elections,” said Bapela.
She said free and fair elections could not be guaranteed in the current environment and said
“The Commission is of the view that in the circumstances, the measures announced as part of the national response to the pandemic; the possibility of free and fair elections is incontrovertibly vitiated.
“The Commission has written to the Minister and provincial MEC’s for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to advise them of the intended application to the Electoral Court.
“All associated election events including voter registration weekends and code of conduct signing ceremonies have also been postponed,” she said.
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