- Jessie Duarte said the ANC would join the IEC in its court application to have the local elections moved to next year.
- Duarte briefed the media on Thursday regarding the decision which was being discussed with the ANC's national leadership.
- The DA said it would oppose the court action.
Despite initially wanting the local government elections to proceed in October, the ANC has now joined the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) in a Constitutional Court bid to have the local government elections postponed.
Briefing the media on Thursday, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the ANC was in the process of drafting affidavits as an interested party in the case.
The ANC now believed it needed more time for campaigning before the elections take place as its initial campaign strategy was hampered by Covid-19.
"We have to take our manifesto to the ground. We have to do it properly and we have to have an assurance that the elections will be free and fair. And that we will not be hampered, by yet another wave of Covid-19," Duarte said.
On Wednesday evening, the IEC filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court to request that the local government elections be postponed to February next year.
While the IEC was considering February as the election date, the ANC wanted it to happen in April next year. The EFF initially proposed April 2022 as the ideal time to host the elections.
"Our understanding is that a number of political parties made the same submission. Do we accept that they go straight to the ConCourt? Yes, of course, the IEC has no other alternative but to do so, to take the matter to the con court, where the arbiter is the ConCourt of this matter. And to take a definitive decision," Duarte said.
Despite approaching the apex court for a postponement, the IEC had also cautioned that the "future is inherently uncertain" and that the commission had no control over variables, such as new Covid-19 variants or a crisis with vaccine supply.
Their move to approach the Constitutional Court came after Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaimed 27 October 2021 as the date for the local government elections.
In his affidavit, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said they wanted the court to order Dlamini-Zuma to to withdraw her notice and set a new date in light of the impact of Covid-19 in the country.
He said this was a "truly exceptional case".
OppositionWhile the ANC had changed its tune on the postponement of elections, the DA insisted it would oppose the Constitutional Court application by the IEC.
The party's leader John Steenhuisen said they'd given the IEC a deadline of tomorrow, 6 August, to go ahead with the agreed-upon election timetable.
The DA vehemently opposed the postponement of the local government elections, saying change was needed. Steenhuisen said: "Failure by the IEC to do so will leave us no choice but to defend our Constitution and the democratic rights of voters in court.
"Our Constitution prescribes that Local Government Elections must take place within 90 days of the end of the five-year term of municipal councils. It is the IEC's job - their only job - to see to it that this happens. Even in a disrupted calendar, there are other steps that can be taken to ensure that this fundamental democratic right is preserved before looking to change the Constitution.
"The party said the technicality of not being able to add names to the voters' roll after the proclamation of the election date - which had now taken place - could be overcome by temporarily suspending the operation of Section 6 of the Municipal Electoral Act, rather than attempting to amend the Constitution in order to delay elections.
"It is the Constitutional Court's duty to protect our Constitution, not change it. By our calculations, there could be as many as nine million eligible voters whose names are not currently on the roll.
"If the IEC does not afford them the opportunity to register, we cannot meet the threshold of a free and fair election. It is entirely possible to temporarily set aside Section 6 of the Act, hold a registration weekend by the end of August, and still hold the elections on the 27th of October," he said.
Steenhuisen added that it was clear that a Covid-affected calendar and the technicalities around the voters' roll were merely a smokescreen for the real reason for wanting to delay the elections - the ANC's fear of voters who are angry at the party.
"By postponing the elections, the IEC would be complicit in helping the ANC evade electoral accountability. The DA will not let that happen," he said.