Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Can South Africa conduct electronic elections?

The national chairperson of Herman Mashaba’s political party, Action SA, Michael Beaumont, has said that even with Covid-19 in a full third wave, this cannot be used as an excuse to postpone the upcoming local government elections. 

Beaumont was speaking on Wednesday at the inquiry probing whether the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) can safely hold free and fair local government elections in October despite the pandemic. 

The inquiry, headed by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, has been hearing oral submissions in Centurion since 28 June. 

“South Africa has a huge corruption and accountability problem. Therefore, holding an election is one of the mechanisms that can be used to address these issues. We are aware of alert level 4, but even given that, postponing this election should be the last resort. We cannot afford it,” said Beaumont.

“Political parties should stop seeking special treatment and making excuses,” he said. 

“The IEC should not entertain excuses. Because, there is not a single organisation that was not forced to make adjustments in how they operate by the pandemic. In all that political parties have been involved in since March last year, they have been using that time to campaign in one way or the other. So the virus is no excuse.”

Moseneke said although there were concerns from civil society organisations about the threat of postponing elections, there was also the possibility of a threat to human life should the elections continue. He said the IEC had a duty to assure citizens their lives would not be threatened should the elections continue.

“Medical evidence suggests that if we reach a certain level of community/herd immunity, the risk associated with Covid-19 may be reduced,” he said.

The nation was divided on the issue of voting during a pandemic. “Some people have expressed concerns of being afraid to die. Some have come to me and said that come hell or high water, these elections must continue. That is why we are here,” he said. 

Electronic voting?

Addressing the possibility of electronic voting, Moseneke said that voter registration cost “R400-million in one day”. “Now you can imagine the number of people involved in that whole process. That  is fascinating in its own way. If you cut out the bodies in the electoral process, that would bring much relief and help us,” said Moseneke.

In his submission, Bennitto Motitswe, the chairperson of the Letsema Centre for Democracy and Development, said that South Africa could not fall into the “trap” of postponing the October elections. 

“We want to emphasise that free and fair elections are not about Covid-19. They are people-centred. We are saying to you, Justice, we must think beyond Covid-19. Postponing these elections will make us fall in the trap that elections are postponed willingly. It’s about legitimacy more than anything,” said Motitswe.

“If we do postpone, then we will say the IEC is missing an opportunity to stabilise elections even beyond Covid-19, meaning we are failing to explore other possible ways of voting. Students are already voting electronically and financial institutions handle our finances electronically. Why can’t we trust the same platforms [with] the fairness of elections?” asked Motitswe.

The director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), William Bird, said in his submission: “We believe the media will be in a good position to cover these elections well. They have a critical role they play in the democratic processes of the country, particularly in the context of elections. The media helps voters to understand better how they can vote and in making informed political decisions.”

Bird said the MMA would be strengthening its efforts to help the media fight disinformation and misinformation leading up to and during the elections, and would be working with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) to achieve this. 

According to Bird, there were also growing concerns of rising threats to media freedom in the country and the threats posed to journalists. These were some of the issues that they would help address.

He said the MMA was not an authority on the pandemic, thus it could only advise that the IEC study all measures to ensure human lives are not threatened.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

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.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker

More top stories

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Clashes in Tunisia after president ousts PM amid Covid protests

Street clashes erupted Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis

Five things to watch in the Zambian elections

Zambia will hold presidential elections in three weeks’ time amidst an ongoing economic crisis and rising political tensions. These are the five most important things to look out for in the elections

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×