The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) through its lawyer, Steven Budlender, says that it has acted responsibly and diligently in preparing for the local government elections to be held in October despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
The Electoral Commission has been questioned on why it did not establish an inquiry at an earlier time or approach Parliament to seek to resolve the problems it faced after President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced October the 27th as the date for the polls.
These include the prediction that a third COVID-19 wave was to hit the country around July and that it previously had to postpone by-elections due to the pandemic restrictions.
Budlender says preparations were made.
“There is no delay between the 21st of April which is the President and the 22nd of April which is the political parties speaking and the appointment of Justice Moseneke, so they adopt exactly the stance you suggest and with respect, it would have been premature to approach Parliament at that point because the very debate that Justice Moseneke was asked to weigh in on and evaluate about whether there could be free and fair elections. So if the IEC had gone to Parliament had said we don’t think that there could be free and fair elections in October they would have been met exactly with the debate that happened with justice Moseneke and exactly the debate that is happening here. So the IEC does what a responsible organ of state would do,” says Budlender .
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Meanwhile, The African National Congress (ANC) has told the Constitutional Court that many experts have mistakenly focused on the election date when concluding that free and fair elections can be held in October this year.
Advocate, Anthony Stein, says that there are other processes linked to the elections as far as political parties are concerned that cannot be ignored.
These include the difficult and highly-contested candidate nomination process, as well as the drive to get eligible voters to register to vote.
The ANC is supporting the IEC’s bid to have the local elections postponed but says the polls must be held in early April of 2022.
“The greatest convergence of experts, and I cannot put it higher than that, is that this is the safest date for the election itself and all of the Sear, Neo and Multi all say that a safe date is the March date. So we would say if the court is setting an outer limit in terms of its mandatory remedy then April is a safer date than the beginning of April but a second reason is that in view of a later date, this gives the IEC the opportunity to correct any mistakes in the preparations that it has made so far.”
The Economic Freedom (EFF) says its members don’t have the resources, unlike the Democratic Alliance (DA), to enable it to run its elections campaign virtually. It says the Constitutional Court when determining whether elections should proceed, should consider that political parties like itself are likely to face litigation for not running candidate nomination processes as spelt out in its constitution.
The party has also warned that as shown in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng at the beginning of this month, the political environment is conducive for chaos should the election outcome be deemed unfair.
EFF lawyer, Mfesane ka Siboto, outlines the EFF proposal should the IEC fail in its bid to have the election postponed.
“The President along with the Minister and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) are directed to either amend the regulations such that political parties can gather together to nominate their candidates and linked to that directive would be the second part of our remedy that the IEC itself must be directed to extend the date for the nomination lists submission – which is currently the 23rd of August.”
Parties react to IEC’s urgent application to have Municipal Elections postponed: