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

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  • The IEC will seek an urgent order to postpone local government elections to next year. 
  • The commission's action follows the announcement by the Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaiming 27 October 2021 as the date for the elections.
  • Chairperson Glen Mashinini said they would have to go ahead and plan for elections until the court says otherwise. 

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will urgently approach the Constitutional Court in a bid to have the upcoming local municipal elections moved to early next year. 

This is as the clock was ticking for the IEC to prepare for elections in terms of the law.

On Wednesday, the commission said the application was being directed to the Constitutional Court for a number of reasons, and especially because the matter raised weighty issues involving the balancing of rights enshrined in the Constitution.

READ | Dlamini-Zuma sets date for local govt elections to 'fulfil her office's constitutional obligations'

The move follows the announcement by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaiming 27 October 2021 as the date for the local government elections - until there is a court order postponing them.

IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said: 

This court application is an extraordinary one and presumably unprecedented. The issues which are core to the application have a bearing on the political rights of citizens as well as the right to life, bodily and psychological integrity, and access to health. The application will undoubtedly offer the constitutional court another opportunity to contribute to the evolving jurisprudence of our constitutional order.

The proclamation by government triggers the requirement for the IEC to publish an election timetable. 

This means the commission will have to continue with activities which must be performed in terms of the IEC timetable, until the Constitutional Court agrees to a postponement. 

The election timetable spans 85 days and lays down the key dates and deadlines for various electoral milestones until voting day on 27 October 2021. The election timetable is expected to be published today, 4 August.

However, the first legal consequence of the proclamation is to close the voters' roll for the purposes of the election on 27 October. This means no new voters may be admitted to the roll for the proclaimed election date, the IEC said. 

WATCH | Minister Dlamini-Zuma briefs media on local government elections

This includes all forms of registration - both physical and electronic. There are currently 25.7 million registered voters on the roll. Since the introduction of electronic registration, there have been 17 964 successful registrations.

But if the IEC's court application is successful, the voters' roll will be opened once again for registrations.

Untenable

The IEC said it was currently in an untenable position with preparations for 27 October, while waiting for the outcome of the Constitutional Court application for a postponement of elections to February 2022.

Mashinini said the nature of the relief sought by the commission was largely predicated on the impossibility of performing its constitutional obligation to conduct constitutionally compliant elections of municipal councils by 1 November 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures instituted to curb the spread of the virus.

"Furthermore, the Commission is seeking alternative relief in the event it is not successful on its preferred option. The alternative relief essentially asks the Constitutional Court to declare that failure to hold the municipal elections by 1 November 2021 is unconstitutional and invalid and suspending the declaration of invalidity until the end of February 2022.

"Moreover, the Commission asks the Court to assume ongoing supervisory jurisdiction, requiring the Commission to report to the Court periodically on its progress in arranging constitutionally compliant local government elections in February 2022," he said.

READ | What does the IEC need to prove in court to have October's elections postponed? We ask the experts

Mashinini added that in order to avoid uncertainty about the legal status of current municipal councils, the IEC would seek an order that they remain competent until newly elected councils are declared elected.

"This court application affects the rights of all citizens of the country and thus everybody has an interest in the proceedings that will evolve in the Constitutional Court. In order to facilitate access to the court process, the Commission will immediately place the founding papers on its website as it transmits by electronic means the application to all registered parties."

Meanwhile, the IEC said the proclamation of the election dates would also open the candidate nomination process and that this window period would conclude on 23 August 2021 at 17:00. 

Registered political parties and independent candidates intending to contest the elections must submit their lists of candidates and nomination documents through various IEC channels.


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