The Justice Moseneke Inquiry has heard that postponing the October 27th local government elections will seriously impact the running of municipalities.

Political parties have slammed the Electoral Commission accusing it of failing to reveal measures it has taken to ensure a free, fair, and safe local government election.

The inquiry led by retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke is looking into whether free and fair local government elections can be held under COVID-19.

Leader of One SA Movement, Mmusi Maimane, says it is possible to hold elections under safe conditions for voters.

He says the pandemic will be with us for a number of years and postponing the elections will not make a difference.

Maimane says at the slow rate at which vaccinations are being rolled out in South Africa is unlikely to achieve the so-called herd immunity in the foreseeable future, which has been touted as a pre-condition to hold safe elections.

Maimane says postponing the elections will impact the running of municipalities including the budget processes and the adoption of Integrated Development Plans.

“You will then be asking citizens to sponsor their subsidiary votes political parties who effectively do not have a mandate. And that would put a risk to the socio-economic conditions that citizens find themselves in. And I would urge if consideration is made that the IEC’s holding of elections on the 27th of October is a super spreader event, that could be the prevailing condition for other super spreader events sponsored by political parties on the streets where they feel a mandate ought to be sought in one way or the other and if it cannot be expressed in the ballot. It can be expressed elsewhere,” says Maimane.

 Justice Moseneke Inquiry proceedings:

ActionSA says the IEC has failed to reveal measures it has taken to ensure a free, fair, and safe local government election.

Its national chairperson, Michael Beaumont, says last year alone, about 75 general elections were held around the world and it was the IEC’s responsibility to analyse those elections and produce the best practice of how it would run a free, fair and safe election during a pandemic in South Africa and bring that to the table for discussion.  Beaumont says the IEC is not exercising its leadership role. He was quick to point out that his party was in no way trying to undermine the role and work of the inquiry.

“If this process begins prior to the IEC having conducted a public awareness campaign as to what measures it is taking to ensure people can vote safely, there is an extent that this process must accept that the level of confidence that must exist among a South African voter to exercise his vote will be low. And it has to then become a discussion of what measures must be taken between now and 27 of October to ensure that South Africans who want to vote have every opportunity to do so without fear for their safety and their lives”.

Youth organisation, Abatsha Force of Change,  argued against the postponement of elections citing previous by-elections that the IEC successfully held under strict COVID-19 protocols.

Abatsha’s Duduzile Dlamini questioned how far the IEC was in rolling out digital voting when the world is embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Is it true that the IEC is ready for electronic voting and if yes, what could be the stumbling block to implement this? So, there are conversations about electronic voting systems that would take place in our country, these conversations have not materialised.”

Media Monitoring Africa says using the latest technology, elections observers could also monitor polls virtually without having to be physically on the ground and exposing themselves to COVID-19.

Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird insists that the local government elections should go ahead as planned, however, with strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols.

In his presentation on the safety of journalists, Bird said that journalists routinely risk their lives gathering news, and if they take all the safety precautions, and are vaccinated during the drive targeted at essential services workers, they will be able to do their jobs.

“We expect our workers to go and stand in queues at taxi ranks on a daily basis just to get to work. We not saying they can’t go to work until we got rid of this virus, not at all because they have to, they have to feed their families. If you take the right precautions and if you have space and put all the protective measures, I can’t see that is anything that is worse or puts people at greater risk than standing in a queue to come to work at a taxi rank.”

However, the President of Action Content Movement, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, maintains that elections should be postponed until the country reaches herd immunity in terms of the vaccination process.

He says the focus should be on saving lives.

“We need scientific… we need medical professionals to lead us in this situation. And my appeal to you Justice Moseneke is you should not give weight to political parties because we are not specialists. What is important is to save the lives of people. We cant postpone life. Hospitals are full and we do not have vaccines. So our view is that  we need to postpone the elections.”