Health NGOs warn against holding Local Government Elections in October

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Health NGOs Health Justice Initiative (HJI) and People’s Health Movement (PHM) have warned that holding the Local Government Elections in October will be risky.

The two NGOs were making their submission to the Moseneke Inquiry regarding whether free and fair Local Government Elections can take place in October.

Fatima Hassan of the HJI says there are various issues that must be reflected upon during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because we don’t have an electoral system where we can do mail balloting like in other jurisdictions or people can just join a Zoom political rally, we are concerned that political parties want to start campaigning as well and how they do that is also a cause for concern. The long queues will also obviously need controlling and marshaling and then, of course, the issue of proper open decentralized ventilated sites. There are a couple of aspects about how you would have controlled measures inside the voting station and outside the voting station.”

The NGOs presented before retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke:

On Monday, Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) CEO Sy Mamabolo outlined four points of contestation amongst political parties on whether it is possible to hold free and fair elections on October 27.

Firstly, Mamabolo says that parties disagree on whether the poll can be legitimate if traditional modes of campaigning are not possible.

He says they also disagree on the level to which the public is mobilized to register for fear of catching the coronavirus.

A third concern is low voter turnout at the polls which may compromise the legitimacy of the elections.

Mamabolo says the fourth issue pertains to political parties’ own preparations.

“Parties are saying that given the current regulatory period arising from the Disaster Management Act they are unable to do their internal primaries so to speak the internal candidate selection processes because these processes generally involve community meeting, branch meeting, going up all the way to the national level of the party.”

Mamabolo said the commission must ensure that it not only holds local elections every five years as required by the Constitution but ensure that the polls reflect the will of the people.

He says that the IEC has not yet determined whether the polls of October 27 will be free and fair, hence the inquiry, however, he says it is working to prepare the technical aspects of it, should it go ahead.