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IEC inquiry gets underway to determine if elections can go ahead in October

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Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke will on Monday morning start hearing oral submissions on whether this year’s local government elections can be held.

Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

WITH THE third wave of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke will on Monday morning start hearing oral submissions on whether this year’s local government elections can be held.

South Africans are expected to head to the polls on October 27.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the election date was followed by uneasiness from some political parties.

The EFF, UDM and the IFP have been the most outspoken about the need to postpone the elections.

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) appointed Moseneke following questions over whether the organisation could possibly hold elections during a global pandemic.

Legislatively, the Constitution mandates that elections have to be held every five years – giving a three-month period of when they should be held and when results should be made available after the election day.

The inquiry’s task will be to hear diverse views from various people and file a report by July 21 – before the proclamation of elections by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Dr Nkozsazana Dlamini Zuma.

When the inquiry starts on Monday, the IEC’s chief executive, Sy Mamabolo, will give the organisation’s perspective on election readiness.

The IEC has for months stated that it was ready and would be able to hold local government elections during the pandemic.

Its leadership has said it would be tough, but measures used during hundreds of by-elections this year had shown it would be possible.

Last month, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini had indicated that if the inquiry recommended a postponement of elections, then the electoral court would be approached to do so.

Moseneke is also expected to hear submissions from the ministerial health advisory committee, the Health Department and civil society organisations.

Political parties are also expected to be heard on later dates.

It is likely that questions about the country’s battle with the third wave will take centre stage. A new variant of the coronavirus, the Delta, is currently driving infections in the country.

From written submissions, it seems the question of whether it is safe to hold elections will not be an easy one to answer.

Professor Shabir Mahdi, from Wits, wrote in his submission that it would be hard to predict where the country would be case-wise in October.

However, he recommended that polling stations should preferably be stationed outside and that all Covid-19 protocols should be followed.

Research experts Professor Elmien du Plessis, Petronell Kruger and Safura Abdool Karim have recommended that the IEC look at adding additional polling stations on election day.

The group has also advised on possibly increasing voting hours and adding additional special voting days to decrease traffic at voting stations.

On the political party submissions, the EFF has recommended that elections should be postponed for 12 months. The ANC said it saw no reason at the moment to postpone elections if cases remained low.

zintle [email protected]

Political Bureau