By-elections halted over validity of voters’ roll

2016-04-05 10:00
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Pietermaritzburg - The validity of the current voters’ roll, which the Electoral Commission has been using since the dawn of democracy, hangs in the balance.

Yesterday the commission announced it had halted all by-elections — including those that were scheduled for tomorrow. This was in the light of continued uncertainty regarding the validity of the roll where voters’ addresses are not in the possession of the Electoral Commission.

The fate of the current voters’ roll will be decided by the Constitutional Court.

In February, the commission was forced to postpone 12 by-elections that had been scheduled in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and the Western Cape after the Electoral Court ordered the postponement of by-elections in Tlokwe, North West.

Six independent candidates there had hauled the commission before the court, arguing that the voters’ roll was defective.

About two-thirds of registered voters currently have partial or no address details captured on the voters’ roll, the commission said.

As the commission waits for the Constitutional Court to hand down its ruling on the appeal, the commission has to also set a date for the 2016 municipal elections, which, in terms of the Constitution, must be held between May 18 and August 16 this year.

The commission’s spokesperson, Kate Bapela, said it had briefed the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister and MECs on the impact of the Electoral Court ruling on the inclusion of addresses on the certified voters’ roll for by-elections, and the risk of the results of by-elections being set aside pending clarity on the matter from the Constitutional Court.

She said the commission would review the postponement of by-elections once judgment was handed down. “In the meantime, the commission is urging all registered voters to use the opportunity of this weekend’s final registration opportunity to visit their voting station to confirm and update their address details ahead of the 2016 municipal elections,” she said.

Election Monitoring Network board chairperson Nkosikhulule Nyembezi said the date for the local government elections could be pushed back by the delayed by-elections.

“They will need to get the by-elections out of the way first,” he said.

Nyembezi said the matter was complicated by not knowing the exact date the judgment would be delivered on.

“Not knowing the date for the constitutional judgment makes it difficult to set the date for the elections.”

Nyembezi said he was confident the commission would be able to hold the elections within the legislated timeframe.

“Preparations for local government elections have started already, so it should not be an issue for them, provided the judgment in the Constitutional Court has been handed down,” he said.

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  by-elections  |  vote

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