The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will file an application with the Constitutional Court for the postponement of local government elections set for 27 October, its chairperson Glen Mashinini said on Wednesday.
In the meantime, however, the IEC will continue with preparations for an October vote, including making logistical arrangements and publishing an election calendar detailing all the important deadlines and dates in the build-up, Mashinini told a media briefing.
The first legal consequence of the proclamation of 27 October as the election date is the closure of the voters’ roll, meaning no new voters may be admitted for the proclaimed date, he said.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaimed the date for the local government on Tuesday, adding, however, that the government would support the IEC’s application for a postponement as recommended by
former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Dlamini-Zuma said proclaiming the elections was a constitutional mandate that must be fulfilled and only the IEC could decide whether current conditions allowed for the vote to proceed on the date.
On Wednesday, Mashinini said Moseneke’s report recommending a postponement to February next year “has enabled us to go to the ConCourt and actually say we believe that it is impossible to host the elections under the current circumstances”.
“We are filing our application this afternoon and I have signed all documents for this purpose,” he said.
The IEC appointed Moseneke in May to chair an inquiry into whether the elections would be free and fair if held in October, given the limitations posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, including on election campaigns.
Moseneke’s report said a free and fair election would not be possible given the pandemic. He recommended that the vote be pushed out to February 2022.
The IEC welcomed the report last month, but said that it would need a court order to officially postpone the elections to a new date. Prior to that, the IEC must comply with laws governing elections by publishing an election timetable in accordance with Dlamini-Zuma’s proclamation.
“Our application is unprecedented as it presents all the issues that can negatively affect the election process. We want to assure South Africans that the commission remains committed to hosting an election with the democratic processes and also while ensuring that we will protect the right to life. Our target date is February 2022,” Mashinini said.
“The commission has appreciation for the constitutional and statutory obligation of the minister to proclaim the election date in the context where there is currently no court order on the deferment of municipal elections.”
He said the IEC wanted the Constitutional Court to give permission for Dlamini-Zuma to withdraw the notice for the October date.
“We want a notice of another new date beyond that, but not later than the last week of February 2022. We urge all council members as well to remain competent in their duty until new councils are elected,” Mashinini said.