There's time to prepare for local government elections - Municipal Demarcation Board

2020-05-14 10:53
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The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) believes the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will have enough time to prepare for next year's local government elections, despite delays in preparations caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

The board had to alter its public participation programme on the demarcation of wards ahead of the 2021 polls due to the lockdown, it said in a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs also heard from the IEC that it was still unclear whether the Covid-19 pandemic would delay next year's local government elections and that one of the steps usually taken before the elections was already behind schedule.

Before every local government election, the MDB goes through the process of evaluating the potential demarcation and re-demarcation of ward boundaries.

IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said the board started with this process in January but it was not done.

"Due to Covid-19, they have not yet concluded the public consultation process," Mamabolo said.

The agreed date to hand over the wards to the IEC was August, but this is not feasible anymore.

Considering issue

After MPs asked whether the election would be delayed, they heard that the IEC was "considering the issue" and the MDB delay was likely to have an impact on when the election would take place.

On Wednesday, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Parks Tau said the board was under pressure to finalise the demarcation of wards.

"But as we all know, the country is under lockdown," he said.

MDB chairperson Thabo Manyoni said Covid-19 impacted on their public participation process. He said they consulted with the IEC and agreed that they would hand over the wards to them by November to give the IEC time to allocate the voting stations, particularly the new wards.

Read: SA beyond Covid-19: How it will shape the future, according to scientists, economists and political minds

"We hope that if we hand over by November 2020, at least the IEC will be able to do its work," he said.

He said historically, the MDB handed over the wards at least 10 months before elections.

"The IEC understands it can't be business as usual."

He said they were encouraging written submissions to the MDB.

"We will try by all means to ensure communities are engaged."

Extension

The public participation process hasn't been completed in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, the North West and the Northern Cape. Three municipalities in the Eastern Cape and seven in KwaZulu-Natal have also not been completed.

Chairperson of the select committee China Dodovu said the Constitution required that the local government elections be held between August and September next year, but they have not completed their work.

"Do they have a plan B?" he asked.

The MDB split municipalities into two batches. The deadline for written submissions for the first batch has been extended from 15 May to 30 May.

MDB COO Aluwani Ramagadza said after the board considers all the written input from this batch, the wards will be published in the relevant provincial gazette by July, allowing anyone aggrieved by the decisions to comment by August. This batch will be handed to the IEC by September.

The second batch will follow a similar process, with the deadline for submissions at the end of July. They intend to publish it for objections in September and hand over to the IEC in November.

He said this would "take care of all the eventualities" for the local government elections.

Read more on:    iec  |  lockdown  |  elections  |  coronavirus
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