The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has shelved all scheduled by-elections in the country in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The affected elections include those which were meant to be held on Wednesday in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.

“People may have not turned up at the voting stations, participation level would have been low, and so in those circumstances, a free and fair election would have been significantly affected,” says IEC Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo.

Eight provinces have outstanding by-elections.

The video below is SABC News reporter Ntlantla Kgatlane’s full report on the story:

Preparations for 2021 polls

With local government elections fast-approaching, the Electoral Commission says it is looking into introducing other measures in preparation for 2021.

“Local government elections next year have to happen, but have to happen in circumstances of relative health, in circumstance where there is no possibility of significant of cross-infection of people, we are monitoring the situation if it’s to get worse,” says Mamabolo.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says, given the scale of the coronavirus challenge, it is understandable why most countries activated their disaster management laws.

He believes this will help in coordinating national response to the pandemic. “We have a disease; people need to understand it severely affects their civil liberty; it affects movement, the right to vote at this pointing time it’s going to be suppressed.”

Meanwhile, the IEC says the 2021 municipal poll might also be moved to a later date, should the situation not improve.