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DA calls for elections to be held in October, EFF wants them postponed to March 2022

Political parties making oral submissions on Friday to the inquiry studying the feasibility of South Africa holding local government elections in October urged the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) not to postpone the vote but to rather have stringent measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

On day five of the submissions, the Democratic Alliance’s Werner Horn told the chairperson of the inquiry, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke that the IEC must not use the excuse of rising Covid-19 infections to postpone the elections.

“I do understand that our Constitution does not require us to perform the impossible. But let’s not also create our own impossibilities. This pandemic is not going away soon. But we understand that we should get a break sometime between now and October, which could give time for voting and campaigning to take place,” Horn said.

The DA and several other political parties have argued that postponing the elections would be a great assault on South Africa’s democracy. 

Horn said political parties had had ample time to campaign on many platforms and this reason should not be used to stop people from going to the polls in October. 

“We stand by our submission that mass gatherings cannot be ruled as sole contributors to infections. We also think political parties must not make excuses about the short time available for campaigning. We are of the view that these elections must happen come hell or high water but regulations should be put in place to ensure they are conducted in a conducive manner,” said Horn. 

Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, said the elections will not be free and fair if held in October.

“They will also not protect the lives of our people. Even the announcement of an election date was made in a rally in KwaZulu-Natal and not on a neutral platform. As political parties we always live in fear of violating disaster management regulations. How much more if we do campaigns now,” Malema said.

He said that herd immunity could not be achieved any time soon and therefore holding elections was impossible. The current Covid-19 lockdown regulations would make it impossible for elections to take place in October, he added.

“Elections are not what happens on the day of elections. Elections are about what happens prior to the election. There should be a feeling already that elections are taking  place this year, through marches, rallies and motorcades. No one is agitating now and communities cannot express their frustrations before elections,” said Malema. 

“We propose that elections be postponed until April 2022. To say people must go and vote in this current climate, we will be subjecting them to what happened during assembly elections in India. We are in a war now, even the fact that the president released the defence force last year to come and enforce (Covid-19) regulations shows we are in a war.”

He said there would be a clearer sense of how effective the Covid-19 vaccines are by October.

Inquiry chairperson Moseneke said he would produce a report within three weeks.

“Our Constitution promises the right to life and healthcare. And we need leaders to consider all the factors carefully. Looking at all the uprisings around poor service delivery as well. If we extend the elections, we are extending the misery of our people on the ground,” Moseneke said.

“If we postpone, then the accountability factor might suffer. People said we need the postponement to allow for the vaccine to spread well across the population. Some have said we can’t postpone the elections beyond March 2022, because there are budgetary requirements that should be met by then.” 

On Thursday, health director general Sandile Buthelezi said the department was confident that by October, 16-million people would have been vaccinated, but added that the probability for holding elections was still questionable. 

“There is also going to be what we call the fourth wave of infections. But its danger will depend on the level of immunity. We might be in this third wave up until the end of August as well,” said Buthelezi. “We might be still in some form of restriction when the elections are due to take place in October.”

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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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