The Electoral Commission of South Africa has taken to court a bid to have the upcoming 5th local municipal elections moved to February next year.
This is after the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma made an announcement to proclaim the poll for 27 October 2021.
IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini during a virtual briefing said, “This court application is an extraordinary one and presumably unprecedented. The issues which are core to the application have a bearing on the political rights of citizens as well as the right to life, bodily and psychological integrity, and access to health. The application will undoubtedly offer the constitutional court another opportunity to contribute to the evolving jurisprudence of our constitutional order.”
The IEC earlier today launched an urgent application requesting the court to allow it to hold the polls outside the legally prescribed 90-day period after the expiry date of municipal councils. The IEC outlined that its application to the ConCourt is based on its constitutional impossibility of implementing elections beyond the expiry term for municipal elections (February 2022).
An inquiry by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke found that elections held in October would neither be free or fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it would not be reasonably possible as proceeding with the elections would cite a spike in COVID-19 infections as well as the death rate. “We acknowledge that elections should be held soon but it cannot be at any cost on all expert evidence, many, many lives are likely to be lost unless we reach a certain level of community immunity. The nearest point of safety will be February 2022 where there is likely to be a high community immunity,’ he said.
The term for the 278 municipal councils elected in 2016 across the country ended on August 3, the same day that Minister of CoGTA announced October 27 as the official date for the local polls. “Only the IEC can decide if the conditions allow for the elections to continue or not. They initiated and accepted the report by former deputy justice Moseneke. The government cannot object to these factors and allow elections to continue. We have to follow what the IEC and the Constitutional Court say about the election.”
The IEC is seeking an order to from the court to hold the elections no later than the end of February 2022 and to withdraw Dhlamini-Zuma’s notice setting October 27 as the date for elections. Dhlamini said if the court agreed to postpone the elections, then the councils currently in office would remain until new ones were elected.
“In the event that the ConCourt grants the prayers of the commission and there is a deferment, this means the voters roll is open once again and people will be able to register and update their details,” says IEC Commissioner Nomsa Masuku.
The majority of political parties have reached a consensus based on the IEC’s decision to postpone the upcoming elections.