Unlikely local govt elections will be postponed

2016-02-26 21:06
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Johannesburg – A postponement of local government elections is not on the cards, officials said on Friday, dismissing speculation that the polls could be moved to next year.

Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said there was a provision in the Constitution that stated the term of local government elections was five years and postponing it would mean going against the Constitution.

Not even the Constitutional Court would have the power to postpone the elections, he said.

"The Constitutional Court cannot rewrite the Constitution ... I can't see that it has the power to postpone the elections; doing so would mean not complying with the Constitution, which it is required to uphold," De Vos said.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the commission was not considering  postponing local government elections.

Concerns that the Independent Electoral Commission of SA might not be ready to hold free and fair elections later this year surfaced when the Electoral Court ordered it to postpone by-elections earlier this week because of issues with the voters' roll.

A group of independent candidates contesting by-elections in Tlokwe, in the North West, approached the Electoral Court on Tuesday to try to postpone the by-elections because of concerns with the voters' roll.

The court ruled in their favour and ordered that six by-elections in Tlokwe be postponed for six weeks.

The IEC was ordered to provide all candidates contesting the by-election with a copy of the voters' roll including the addresses of all registered voters, where addresses were available.

The commission postponed all by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, North West and Limpopo.

The Tlokwe by-elections, which were scheduled for Wednesday, were meant to be held after last year’s Constitutional Court judgment which set aside by-elections that took place on September 12 2013 in Ward 18 and on December 10 2013 in Wards 1, 4, 11, 12, 13 and 20.

The ANC won all but one of the contested wards. The Constitutional Court ordered at the time that they be re-run. 

Earlier this week, Cabinet's Governance and Administration Cluster said the IEC remained a credible body that was merely facing administrative issues.

Political parties have expressed concern about a postponement of the local government elections and have questioned the implications of a postponement.

The ANC and DA said they were seeking legal advice.

The ANC said it was worried that voters in informal settlements or rural areas, who did not have formal addresses, would be excluded from voting. It did not want to disadvantage anyone who had a right to vote.

"This is a sore point for us," spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

He said the ruling party was seeking legal advice on whether it should approach the Constitutional Court and the Electoral Court for clarity on their rulings.

The DA said it was up to the IEC to approach the Constitutional Court for clarity on the order.

"If the IEC fails to do so on its own, the DA will seek a declaratory order from the Constitutional Court to get legal certainty on the IEC’s readiness to hold free and fair elections and whether this will require any further delays to the coming  local government elections," DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said.

Bapela said the IEC was consulting advisers and its legal team on the Electoral Court order and the Constitutional Court order.

"We just want to be sure that we understand what should be done and then we will start external consultation processes."

De Vos said the Constitutional Court order was quite clear.

It ordered that attempts would have to be made to verify the addresses of every person registered and, second, that every candidate contesting by-elections was entitled to the voters' roll with all the available addresses.

"Although the Constitutional Court did not order that the voters' roll ... had to be revisited, it was clear there was a problem and the IEC didn't seem to fix it or it was not ordered to fix it.

"The IEC followed the letter of the order but maybe not its spirit because it didn't take any steps to try to fix the problem," he said.

Bapela said the first voter registration weekend would be held next week. The IEC was working on ensuring that every South African who was registered had the correct, full address and that it was traceable.

Leaders of the IEC met on Friday and will sit at the weekend to look at key processes.

"Sometime next week we will know what steps the IEC will take to execute this [court] order," she said.

Read more on:    iec  |  johannesburg  |  local elections 2016

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