By-elections off as third wave takes hold

The Electoral Commission of South Africa has gone to court to have by-elections that were scheduled to be held on Wednesday postponed because of the move to level four of the Covid-19 lockdown from Monday 28 June.

Commission spokesperson Kate Bapela said the electoral body had decided to do so in response to the president’s Sunday night announcement, which included a ban on all gatherings with the exception of funerals for 14 days.

The by-elections, scheduled for nine wards in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape, were the last to be held before the local government elections, which are currently scheduled for 27 October. Nearly 100 by-elections were postponed during the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic due to lockdown restrictions. 

The majority of them were held during lulls in the pandemic last year and during March, April and May this year.

Bapela said the commission would ask the Electoral Court to postpone the by-elections until the middle of July.

The move to level four is also likely to impact on the voter registration weekend set for 17 and 18 July, which is a key milestone in the process to prepare for the elections.

Any further extension after the 14 days proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday — a real possibility given the increase in infections caused by the third wave of infections — may result in the 27 October poll being postponed.

While the ANC and the Democratic Alliance are keen to push ahead with the poll, the Economic Freedom Fighters has called for the election to be postponed because of the limitations on the ability to campaign due to lockdown regulations.

The inquiry into ensuring free and fair local government elections under Covid-19, chaired by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, is set to deliver its report by 21 July.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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