The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) will be under pressure to decide in a matter of days whether it will implement recommendations by former deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke to halt local government elections until February 2022.
The commission is expected to consult with key stakeholders including political parties before making a final determination.
“The commission will retreat to study the report in depth. It must be noted that this is a weighty report on a weighty matter,” IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said.
The IEC on Tuesday received the outcomes of Moseneke’s inquiry, whose findings are on submissions from medical experts, political parties, civil society movements and the public.
In a 23-page report, Moseneke explained why it would be more suitable to postpone the elections.
“We have readily conceded that deferring elections might be an unwelcome dent to our democratic nation’s resolve psyche and yet we hope we have shown that we are in exceptional circumstances that pose a real, direct and collective threat to our bodily and psychological wellbeing, [and] to our livelihoods.”
“Some have argued that the deferment may encourage or initiate a slippery slope that might undermine the democratic project, [but] we think that this argument has a considerable force. Only the most compelling of reasons should justify the deferment of a term of elections set in the supreme and other law of the country. For that reason, our recommendation is that the elections be deferred only this once and to the to the earliest date…” says the report.
Moseneke stated that medical experts were able to raise issues around the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and noted that submissions had shown that the country would have not have reached herd immunity by October 27, which is the proposed day of elections.
He then highlighted case studies where other countries continued with voting during the pandemic, which proved to be a bad idea.
“Let is suffice to draw the attention to studies on the presidential elections in the US, state assembly elections in India and local government elections in Brazil during the pandemic. The recorded estimates of deaths associated with each of these elections run into staggering numbers, something we should not wish for ourselves.”
Moseneke said experts mostly discouraged gatherings leading up to the elections, which means that there will be limitations placed on electioneering.
If the IEC seeks to implement the outcomes of the inquiry to postpone the elections then it will have to submit an application to the courts to such an effect.
However, if it decides to go as planned, voter registration will take place and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will have to make a proclamation on the elections by August 2.
The EFF was the most vocal among the parties calling for the elections to be postponed, while the DA fiercely opposed any postponement. The DA today said it had noted Moseneke’s decision.