Voting during a pandemic: IEC forges ahead with plans for local govt elections

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Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission, Glen Mashinini.
Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission, Glen Mashinini.
Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Netwerk24
  • Planning for the local government election in October is going ahead despite the uncertainty brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • On Friday, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini told Parliament they're planning, knowing there is uncertainty.
  • Mashinini hopes the Covid-19 pandemic won't scupper their plans.

South Africa's electoral hierarchy is planning the forthcoming local government elections knowing there is uncertainty.

Although the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) announced its readiness for the elections in October, its chairperson Glen Mashinini was hopeful that their plans won't be scuppered due to Covid-19.

On Friday, Mashinini presented the IEC's 2021-2022 budget and performance plan to Parliament's home affairs committee.

READ | Elections: Political parties might have to forgo rallies, campaigns because of Covid-19, experts say

He told MPs that despite the uncertainty, all legal prescripts had been and would be followed.

"The issue of the pandemic is that all of us are planning knowing there is uncertainty. We have taken into consideration of the Public Finance Management Act. So, when we enter agreements, all those things were with the PMFA. In the event of, let us say, force majeure, and we can't proceed... at this point the Constitution is saying x, and we are working on those bases. We hope that we will not get to that point," he said.

READ | No dithering or delays for DA - Steenhuisen says party ready for local govt elections

EFF MP Mgcini Tshwaku asked Mashinini whether political parties would be reimbursed for election material bought if the polls were cancelled.

"Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the possibility that the elections is cancelled; who is going to pay for cost that have been incurred by the political parties and the commission. There is no provision for that," Mashinini replied.

Level

Regarding the IEC's budget, he said: "At a strategic level when the commission looked into the situation. Whether we like it or not, we are now in an abnormal economic and financial situation. Therefore the issues of budgets, it was a given. We had to absorb the pain. The impact of the reductions has had a negative effect on a number of strategic initiatives.

"Part of these initiatives we have been working over the last five years. Unfortunately, we had to abandoned certain initiatives. These programmes take a long time for you to work on, especially in the progressive move into adopting new technologies."

READ ALSO | DA questions IEC's 'coaching' of parties for elections postponement

IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said for now, only one voter registration weekend was planned.

"Online registration is an important intervention in the Covid-19 context. It will allow us to, with the necessary safeguards, allow those with access to smart devices and broadband... to register without having to queue and so on. We currently plan to have that capability ready by mid-June. We will have a social media campaign to support this in communities," he said.

Last month, News24 reported that about half of the 14 parties on the IEC's participatory panel want the local government elections to be postponed.

This followed President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that the local elections would take place on 27 October.

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