‘Postpone the elections and spare lives,’ Motsoeneng tells inquiry

In his submission to the inquiry probing whether the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) can safely hold free and fair local government elections in October despite the Covid-19 pandemic, former SABC chief operating officer and leader of the African Content Movement (ACM), Hlaudi Motsoeneng said the IEC must “postpone” the elections.  

“If the IEC continues with this year’s local government elections, it would commit itself to threatening the human life of many South Africans. Don’t give [so] much weight  to the political parties. We need to postpone the elections. We need to focus on the lives of our people. The constitution is not there to kill people, but protect them,” said Motsoeneng during his submission. 

“Don’t listen to political parties: we need science and medical specialists on this, not political opinion. I can’t mobilise in the areas I want to go to, because of the pandemic. There is a lot of noise out there. And there is a pandemic. There has not been any measures to indicate how really free and fair these elections could be,” he told the inquiry.  

Duduzile Dlamini, the founder of youth organisation Abatsha Force of Change; and the national chairperson of ActionSA, Michael Beaumont, were among other people who presented their views to the inquiry on Wednesday, day three of oral submissions. 

Motsoeneng said the decision to host elections during a pandemic should be based on the submissions of people who were thinking with their minds, not their stomachs. 

“Politicians must not be greedy: this is not about outshining anyone. There are human lives involved,” said Motsoeneng.

Inquiry leader and former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke emphasised the need for democratic processes not to falter because of the pandemic.

Moseneke said he had heard an outcry from people who were complaining about service delivery, and elections were their platform to voice their concerns.

“I hear you Mr Motsoeneng, but what about the recent revelations of government corruption and the lack of delivery of adequate services? Here we must balance the right to life and democratic process. Your submissions are as important as those of your colleagues,” Moseneke said.  

Moseneke said that in two weeks’ time, he would have completed his inquiry and submitted a report with recommendations to the IEC.

Abatsha’s Dlamini said she was grateful that the IEC was willing to listen to the voices of young people, who seldom had such a platform to present to. 

“We are confident in the political parties. And all these social ills, and insufficient service delivery are still talking to the issues of corruption in the country,” Dlamini said. 

“We do support the possibility of the elections taking place. This will give us a chance as young people to have a say in the polls. And I hope the IEC and this inquiry will consider the issues of corruption that were revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic, before deciding on whether the elections should happen,” she said.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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