IEC asks ConCourt to postpone elections, contemplates 23 February 2022 as the new date

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The IEC has filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court seeking coming municipal elections postponed to next year in an unprecedented move.
The IEC has filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court seeking coming municipal elections postponed to next year in an unprecedented move.
Ntwaagae Seleka, News24
  • The IEC has urgently applied to the Constitutional Court for the postponement of the upcoming local polls.
  • The IEC seeks an order that the 27 October elections be held next year, with a suggested date of 23 February 2022.
  • The IEC is concerned about holding elections while the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court to request that the impending local government elections be postponed.

It is contemplating that citizens head to the polls on 23 February 2022.

However, it has also cautioned that the "future is inherently uncertain" - and the commission has no control over variables, such as new variants or a crisis with vaccine supply.

Earlier on Wednesday, News24 reported that the electoral body was planning to approach the court following the announcement by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in proclaiming 27 October 2021 as the date for the local government elections.

However, in an affidavit, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said "this was a truly exceptional case" that required the court to authorise Dlamini-Zuma to withdraw her notice and set a new date in light of the impact of Covid-19 in the country.

The IEC claimed that issues, which are core to its application, have a bearing on the political rights, rights to life, bodily and psychological integrity and access to health of citizens of the country. 

READ | IEC will ask ConCourt to postpone local govt elections to February next year

"The application will undoubtedly offer the Constitutional Court another opportunity to contribute to the evolving jurisprudence of our constitutional order. The application is also launched on an urgent basis because there is need for certainty in the preparations for the municipal elections," the IEC said on its website.

The alternative relief it sought was for the court to declare that failure to hold the municipal elections by 1 November 2021 is unconstitutional and invalid, and suspend the declaration of invalidity until the end of February 2022.

The electoral body also wanted an order that all municipal councils remain competent until newly elected councillors are declared elected, in order to avoid uncertainty about the legal status of current municipal councils.

READ | IEC heads to court to defer elections, despite Dlamini-Zuma proclaiming October 27 as poll date

Regardless, it wanted the court to assume an ongoing supervisory role in the matter.

This would require the IEC to file a report with the Constitutional Court every month between October and January next year, in which it sets out its progress in organising the elections and updating it "on the possibility of elections being free and fair".

Mashinini said: 

To the extent that any further delay may be necessary in order to hold a free and fair election, such a delay would then occur under this court's close control and supervision.

Mashinini said the supervisory relief was necessary as "the future was inherently uncertain".

"There can be no absolute guarantee that new mutations or variants will not arise before then, undermining the efficacy of the vaccines, or that there will not be a crisis in vaccine supply to South Africa. The commission has no control over variables such as these."

At various times in his affidavit, Mashinini pleaded that the Constitutional Court determine the matter by 30 August, or by latest 10 September, otherwise it would no longer be able to implement either of its timetables (original timetable or timetable for early next year).

He said a revised timetable for February 2022 would be as follows:
  • A voter registration weekend on 18-19 September 2021.
  • Minister to proclaim date of the election by 3 November 2021.
  • Voters' roll to be made available for inspection and objections between 8 and 15 November 2021.
  • Commission to consider objections between 16 and 22 November 2021.
  • Cut-off date for nomination of candidates would be 24 November 2021.
  • The voters' roll to be certified on 9 December 2021.
  • Commission to certify the final list of candidates on 10 December 2021.
  • Voting to take place on 23 February 2022, when health department anticipates that it would have fully vaccinated 67% (40 million) of the population.

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