Moseneke chosen to decide whether or not to delay October local government elections

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has appointed former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to review whether the 27 October local government elections should go ahead or possibly be postponed given the challenges the country is facing because of Covid-19

This was announced on Thursday by IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini

“Judge Moseneke will oversee the process of this year’s local government elections. He will compile a report on all the factors that will enable us to hold a free and fair election.

“We expect a report by mid July at the latest. This report will make recommendations that will ensure that we can have a free and fair election, regardless of the pandemic environment,” Mashinini said during a press briefing.

According to Mashinini, the request to Moseneke is in line with Section 14(4) of the Electoral Commission Act (51 of 1996). 

The section provides for the commission, should it deem necessary, to publish a report on the likelihood or otherwise that it will be able to ensure elections will be free and fair.

Moseneke is not new to the IEC, he was the chairperson of the commission when it conducted the first democratic elections in 1994. 

Moseneke will consider submissions from all stakeholders and political parties for his report.

“This report will consider all disaster management, legal and health factors to inform the possibility of a free and fair election, the review will be done in terms of the Electoral Commission Act 51 of 1996,” he said.

This is the first time the Act has been invoked. 

“We are aware of the weight resting on us, that of striking a balance between protecting our constitutional democracy and protecting lives. We also appeal to all political parties to assist judge Moseneke in carrying this task and delivering the report on time,” Mashinini explained.

“As the midwife of the first democratic election, we trust judge Moseneke to champion this baby once again. We will give him all the necessary support.”

The IEC was technically ready, said Mashinini, and preparations were at an advanced stage to host the elections, but the pandemic involved unknown probabilities. 

A further concern was the division of political parties on whether they could campaign freely under the current state of disaster. 

Moseneke said he was delighted with the task he had been given. 

“I could not ignore the importance of this undertaking to help in ensuring a free and fair election as embodied in the constitution,” he said. 

“On May 24, I will be opening an office that will get the ball rolling. Inviting all stakeholder and concerned political parties to engage with us,” he 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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