Two sides of tyranny: IEC exploring a variety of options for elections registration

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  • The IEC has launched its mobilisation drive ahead of October's local government elections.
  • The commission said it's looking at more options for voter registration other than the one weekend in July.
  • Although it is concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic, the commission says it is technically ready for the elections to go ahead.

Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was in the process of consulting with parties "to finalise additional options for [voter] registration".

The IEC has so far only announced one voter registration weekend - 17 and 18 July - ahead of the 27 October local government elections, citing budget constraints.

Mamabolo spoke at the launch of the IEC's "mobilisation campaign" in the Sandton International Convention Centre on Wednesday ahead of the voter registration weekend.

He did not mention the alternative options on the table, but hinted at some form of electronic registration being made available too.

The mobilisation campaign was launched even as former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke was completing his report on whether the elections should go ahead or be delayed in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the slow vaccine rollout.

Moseneke's report was done under Section 14(4) of the Electoral Commission Act.

READ | Report on whether elections are feasible during pandemic to be completed by July - Moseneke

IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said the commission was "walking a tightrope" over the decision.

He said:

On the one side is the tyranny of the elections becoming a super-spreader event, leading to further loss of human life. On the other side is the tyranny of the failure to adhere to the dictates of our Constitution, leading to democratic backsliding and setting an undesirable precedent for the future.

He said "free and fair elections" were not defined in the Constitution.

"Over the past 27 years we have set a strong precedent and high standards against which we judge the success of elections," he said.

"The dilemma facing the commission and all of us today is whether these same standards of freeness and fairness apply without amendment under such abnormal and challenging conditions."

READ | Justice Moseneke meets political parties, announces timelines on inquiry into feasibility of local elections

He also said the IEC should be mindful of the threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to people, the economy and democracy.

"All life is precious and we cannot act recklessly or irresponsibly. Yet equally we cannot risk undermining the Constitution and the democratic gains of the past 27 years," he said.

He said the process embarked on by Moseneke "may also identify additional mitigation measures to further fortify the elections against the impact of the pandemic".

ALSO READ | IFP calls for postponement of local govt elections

This would "help guide the commission and all of us in better understanding the requirements for free and fair elections, not only now but for the future".

Mashinini said the commission was nevertheless ready to deliver the elections and believed it should go ahead in October.

Currently the voters' roll has 25.75 million registered voters, with an estimated 15 million unregistered, of which about 60% are under 30, according to the IEC.

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