- Parties are split over whether the local government elections should be postponed.
- The election date has been set for 27 October.
- The IEC said a postponement would require a legislative amendment.
About half of the 14 parties on the Electoral Commission of South Africa's (IEC) participatory panel want the local government elections to be postponed.
On Wednesday evening, the Presidency announced the elections would take place on 27 October.
On Thursday, the IEC briefed the media about the upcoming elections.
Its CEO, Sy Mamabolo, said the announcement allowed the IEC and other stakeholders to start their preparations to ensure South Africa's sixth municipal council elections were free, fair and safe.
Earlier on Thursday, he said, the commission met with leaders and representatives of political parties in the National Party Liaison Committee, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Deputy Home Affairs Minister Njabulo Nzuza.
"The meeting is part of our ongoing consultations and engagements with all the key stakeholders to plan and prepare for the elections," Mamabolo added.
He said some parties raised their concerns about restrictions on political gatherings and other constraints to campaigning under the current national state of disaster regulations.
"Some parties have proposed postponing the elections in light of the pandemic. Others have indicated their view the elections should proceed under special Covid-19 protocols as part of 'the new normal'."
Responding to questions, Mamabolo said the 14 parties participating were split in half over the matter.
"The positions are diametrically opposed," he added, saying each side was "passionate" about its position.
"Unfortunately, I can't say everyone left the meeting satisfied."
The commission said its analysis of the Constitution and other legal matters, supported by a senior counsel's opinion, was the elections could only be postponed through a statutory amendment.
"With this in mind, the commission has proceeded to plan for the holding of local government elections within the current constitutional timeframe," said Mamabolo.
The Constitution limits councillors' terms to five years from their election and stipulates that elections must occur within 90 days of the end of the term.
He did not mention which parties took which position.
The EFF has been vocal in calling for the postponement of the municipal elections, while the DA welcomed the date of 27 October.
With the date now set, the IEC can finalise its key dates and finer planning details for the elections.
The first topic on the agenda is voter registration - there will only be one voter registration weekend for this election due to limited resources.
The IEC will also finalise candidate nominations for ward and PR lists for the more than 10 000 seats to be contested in 205 local municipalities, eight metros and 44 district councils.
This will primarily be managed via the Online Candidate Nomination System. Candidate nominations are scheduled to take place during August and September.
"The commission will consider all possible measures within the legal framework and will announce further details on special voting in due course," said Mamabolo.