The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has emphasised that it has no power, on its own, to vary the date of  the local government elections scheduled for 27 October.

The IEC has been consulting with political parties in recent months regarding whether a postponement of the election is needed.

It has now appointed a body lead by former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, to assess the possibility of the country holding free and fair elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IEC open to election postponement:

IEC Deputy CEO Masego Sheburi outlines what would happen should the Commission deem that the high rate of infections would make the poll impossible.

“The Commission, under those circumstances, will be in a position to approach the constitutional court to do the following: first to ask for direct access, secondly the commission must demonstrate to the court that circumstances that lead to the impossibility, and those will not include failure of the Commission to stand ready within the constitutionally determined time frames, beyond that the commission must submit a timetable to the court regarding when it is able to hold elections.”

Views from stakeholders

Moseneke says he will establish an office to solicit the views of various stakeholders including political parties, health authorities and disaster management officials to assess the possibility of free and fair local elections.

“Almost 80 countries and territories have postponed elections over the last 18 months over concerns about the pandemic while a further 180 countries chose to proceed with elections. The responses of democracies around the world show that there is no right or wrong approach to this quandary nor can any decision be made in isolation from the particular circumstances prevalent in that country.”

Preparations for elections

The IEC says its preparations for the Local Government Elections, on 27 October, are advanced and it is confident that it can take place in free and fair conditions. It says its belief arises from the conducting of successful by-elections in recent months, as well as the experience of other countries on the continent and overseas.

IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini says under abnormal conditions, the minimum requirements for what constitutes free and fair elections is different.

“Under such abnormal conditions, the minimum requirements for what constitutes free and fair elections may be different from the standards we apply during ordinary times. Therefore, the commission wishes to get an independent evaluation on all the factors that may have a bearing on free and fair elections.”

IEC updates on preparations for local government elections: