- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has proclaimed 27 October as the date for the local government elections.
- The minister said on Tuesday that she was still compelled by law to set a date.
- The IEC, however, will soon turn to the courts in an attempt to get the elections postponed.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaimed 27 October 2021 as the date for the local government elections - until there is a court order postponing the elections.
Addressing the media virtually on Tuesday, Dlamini-Zuma said, after seeking a legal opinion, it was clear that she was still, by law, obligated to proclaim the elections "and gazette the date".
Through officially gazetting the date, the minister said, it would "enable the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to go ahead and file papers in the Constitutional Court to postpone an election that has been proclaimed".
She said her department was "in no way seeking to contradict" former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke's report - which recommended the municipal polls be postponed to no later than February next year - but "merely fulfilling" her office's constitutional obligations.
"In balancing the need to secure livelihoods and our democratic obligations, we are in agreement with the outcomes of the Moseneke inquiry," said Dlamini-Zuma.
She also said the government was in support of the IEC approaching, "with deliberate speed, a court of competent jurisdiction to seek a just and equitable order to defer the local government elections to not later than the month of February 2022".
The minister revealed that the legal counsel she received had, among other things, also considered whether it should be the IEC or Dlamini-Zuma who approaches the Constitutional Court for the postponement of the elections and "what role the minister should play in the litigation if the IEC approached the Constitutional Court – namely, whether she should be a co-applicant or be a party that assists by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the case".
According to Dlamini-Zuma, it was the legal opinion's conclusion that "by resolving to adopt Moseneke's report, the IEC has, by implication, concluded that elections held in October 2021 will not be free and fair and has resolved to follow the recommendations of the report".
She added that there was a more pressing imperative for both the IEC and her department, which was "to protect the rights of all persons to life, bodily and psychological integrity, as well as access to healthcare services, all of which rights may be jeopardised if elections continue as initially planned".
The ANC welcomed Dlamini-Zuma's announcement, saying the proclamation of a date was "an important and critical legal requirement, which will enable the IEC to approach the courts to postpone the local government elections scheduled for 27 October 2021 in line with the recommendations of the Moseneke Inquiry".
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said: "The recommendations by former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke were based on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the holding of free and fair elections, including voter registration, the ability of parties to select candidates and campaign to enable citizens to exercise informed choices.
"In its submission to the Moseneke Inquiry, the ANC emphasised the importance of adhering to the constitutional injunction of holding regular multiparty elections and the right of citizens to exercise their democratic right to elect their public representatives.
"The ANC supported the postponement of the elections by not more than six months in order to allow for an evidence-based decision on the exact election date, taking into account the imperative of combating the Covid-19 pandemic, safeguarding lives, allowing for voter registration, candidate selection, and campaigning by political parties."