Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Most political parties welcome decision to postpone local government elections

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Jul 24, 2021

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Johannesburg - While the majority of political parties have hailed the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC) decision to approach a court of law to postpone the upcoming October national local government elections following a warning by the retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke - the DA still remains in doubt.

Moseneke, who was appointed by the IEC to conduct an inquiry on the feasibility of conducting elections on October 27, released his report on July 20 this week and warned the electoral body that it would be disastrous to go ahead with the planned elections.

In his report, which recommended that the elections be held in February, Moseneke said: “On all expert evidence, many lives are likely to be lost unless we reach a certain community immunity. The nearest point of safety will be February 2022 when there is likely to be a high level of community immunity.

“The postponement, therefore, should not be longer than strictly necessary to save lives and limbs,” he said.

Agreeing with the report, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini announced in Pretoria on Friday that they had agreed to approach a competent court of law to ask to postpone the elections until February.

“The Electoral Commission has carefully considered and resolved to adopt the final report of the ‘Inquiry into Ensuring Free and Fair Elections during Covid-19’ by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.

“The commission accepts the rational and the central thesis of the report that greater immunity through mass vaccination is a desirable precondition for a safe, free and fair election to be realised,” Mashinini said.

He said after Moseneke tabled his report, the commission met to review and deliberate and unanimously agreed to adopt the report.

“In so far as the recommendations pertain, the commission will adjust implementation to accord with current legal prescripts and financial means. Where there are substantial financial implications, the National Treasury will be approached for additional funding.

“The report found that it was not reasonably possible or likely that the local government elections scheduled for October 2021 would be free and fair and recommended that the Electoral Commission approach a court of competent jurisdiction to seek a just and equitable order for the deferral of the elections to a date not later than February 2022,” he said.

Mashinini said the IEC resolved 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.

The IEC also agreed to postpone the scheduled voter registration of July 31 and August 1 pending the outcome of their impending application.

Reacting to the IEC decision, Cope’s national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said his party welcomed the IEC decision to approach the court with the view to ask it to postpone October’s national local government elections until February next year.

“The decision of the IEC is in the best interest of the country to save lives. It’s a reality that Covid-19 is real and it kills people.

“The third wave is causing havoc in the country. It is a sober decision to adopt and accept the Moseneke report,” Bloem said.

He said his party would wait for the court to grant the IEC permission to postpone the elections.

The DA’s national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said her party’s position remains unchanged saying they did not support the postponement of an election based entirely on the equivocal provisions of the Constitution which call for regular, free and fair elections.

“We will, however, be studying the submission of the IEC to the court to specifically look at the mechanism that the commission seeks to use to postpone the election. It is absolutely important that this process is in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution and protects the rights of all South Africans to go to the polls and elect a government of their choice.

“We will also be looking at issues of precedent that could be set by this postponement and on the basis of those specifics, make a decision on the next steps,” Gwarube said

While the DA adopts a wait-and-see attitude, other parties have showered praise on Moseneke for considering the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic in the outcome of his report.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said his party had for long called for a postponement until May 2022 - as they believe that would give the entire population the opportunity to attain herd immunity.

“We are further willing to support the amendment of the Constitution, so that any postponements deemed necessary for health and safety – as well as to meet the requirements for free and fair elections – can meet constitutional muster,” Singh said.

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Political Bureau

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