Johannesburg - The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) would need four years to prepare for new elections should the Constitutional Court rule that addresses must be on the voters' roll, the court heard on Monday.
The court began hearing arguments on the status of those voters whose addresses were not on the roll, and whether the lack of addresses would render the roll invalid.
If the court found that it did render the roll invalid, it could mean the August 3 local government elections would have to be postponed.
Around 12 million registered voters did not have addresses on the voters' roll.
The need to have voters' addresses on the roll first entered the spotlight following a Constitutional Court ruling that by-elections held in Tlokwe in 2013 were not free and fair. That judgement was handed down in November last year.
The court ruled that all new voters who registered had to have address details, or sufficient details of where they lived, to place them in a voting district.
In February this year, the Electoral Court halted the Tlokwe by-elections after six independent candidates complained that more than 4 198 addresses were missing from the new voters' roll. Subsequently, the IEC postponed several other by-elections around the country.
The IEC then approached the Constitutional Court to seek clarity on the ruling, including the question of whether a lack of addresses would invalidate the roll.
The respondents in the case are the independent candidates, the ANC, the DA, the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the IFP, and the National House of Traditional Leaders.
Gilbert Marcus, for the ANC, said the party agreed with the IEC that there was no need for addresses. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said the problem was that Marcus could not say with confidence that all those who were registered and on the roll were entitled to be voting in the specific wards.
Muzi Sikhakhane, for Cogta, said the right to privacy came into play when information like addresses was made available to political parties.
Mogoeng set this argument aside, saying it was probable that no more than 1 000 people would object to this as such details were used all the time.
"I even get messages from Miladys in the middle of the night," Mogoeng said, referring to the chain of women’s clothing stores.
Wim Trengove, for the IEC, earlier said the organisation did not keep a record of the people who did not have addresses.
Justice Sisi Khampepe said she did not understand how the IEC had not obtained the required addresses since 2003, given that they had had 13 years to do so. Trengove said nearly eight million people did not have addresses, while another eight million had incomplete addresses.