Johannesburg - Going to elections with a voters roll deemed “unlawful” by the Constitutional Court would not be enough to derail the elections.
Phephelaphi Dube, director at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said the August 3 local government elections could still be free and fair.
This follows a judgment by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday which gave the go-ahead for the elections to go ahead, even though 12 million names lacked proof of address.
The Independent Electoral Commission was given 18 months by the court to correct this.
Dube said the court could not stop the elections from going ahead because it “was mindful of the separation of powers. Postponing the August elections would have meant encroaching on powers of legislature. So the suspension of the validity of the declaration is a pragmatic solution to an otherwise political quagmire,” she said.
Free and fair elections
She said a valid voters’ roll was not the only measure of free and fair elections. “It is but one, dare I say, not so important consideration. Other factors include conduct of political parties before elections and on election day, the ability of political parties to canvas for votes without intimidation, the ability of the state broadcaster to fairly cover political party campaigns etc.”
Dube said in a media release that the centre welcomed the Constitutional Court decision in the case on Tuesday in which the IEC appealed the electoral court’s earlier decision to postpone by-elections in Tlokwe over irregularities on names in the voters’ roll.
According to the electoral court decision, permitting elections while 4 000 names on the voters’ roll lacked addresses would mean the elections would not be free and fair and would contravene the Constitution.
The IEC, amongst others, argued that, should the elections be postponed because of this, it would have seen the disenfranchisement of 12 million voters on the roll whose names would have been removed because they did not have addresses.
She said: “It is also worth noting that that decision recognises the particular socio-economic environment of South Africa by stressing that the requirement that the IEC should record addresses ‘where such addresses are available’ refers to addresses that are objectively available or can be ascertained with sufficient certainty.
“This is a recognition that the right to access adequate housing, for many South Africans, is yet to be fulfilled.”
She said the Constitutional Court’s minority decision cautioned that the use of a flawed voters’ roll in the August elections could open up a challenge to the election results on the basis of it not being free and fair.
Dube said in many respects, the court’s decision “marks the deepening of South Africa’s constitutional democracy in that the Constitutional Court has established stricter criteria which must be met before an election can be declared free and fair.
“This is an important affirmation of the nation’s fundamental values, as established by the Constitution, including ‘universal adult suffrage, a national common voters’ roll, regular elections and a multiparty system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness’,” she said.
Dube added the decision ultimately safeguarded the integrity of South Africa’s elections through shoring up the existing checks and balances to ensure free and fair elections.