/ 3 September 2021

Concourt dismisses IEC application to postpone elections

Local Elections Iec 6681 Dv
More than 1.7-million voters registered for the upcoming local government election at the weekend. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

A matter that surely dominated the ANC’s national working executive committee (NEC) special meeting is the constitutional court’s dismissal on Friday of an application by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to have this year’s elections postponed. 

The ruling was delivered just minutes after the NEC had convened its meeting. 

In its order, the apex court also declared that Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s proclamation of the election date of 27 October was “unconstitutional, invalid and is set aside”. 

The court ordered that the IEC must, within three calendar days of the order, determine whether it is practically possible to hold a voter registration weekend and must notify Dlamini-Zuma of its decision.

Should the IEC not find it practical to hold voter registration weekend, the court ordered that Dlamini-Zuma, no earlier than 10 September, issue a proclamation of a date for the elections.

It further ordered that the local government elections be held on any day in the period Wednesday 27 October to 1 November. 

“Between the date of this order and 10 September, eligible voters who wish to register may apply to do so at the relevant municipal office,” the court said. 

The IEC approached the constitutional court after it announced in July that it had adopted a report by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke that if the elections were held on 27 October they would not be free and fair. 

Moseneke was commissioned by the IEC to investigate whether the elections would be free and fair if held in October, given the limitations posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which would also affect election campaigns. He recommended that the vote be pushed back to February 2022.

Moseneke’s report cited expert opinion from the country’s leading scientists, including those specialising in epidemiology. The scientists said the actual number of infections was probably three times higher than the official record. They said October would be a period of lower infections but holding the elections then would result in a resurgence that the country would be unable to manage.

The ANC will be the hardest hit by the order, having failed to register its councillor candidates with the IEC in no less than 93 municipalities. Most of these unregistered candidates, including proportional representative candidates, are in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape municipalities. 

To counter this the ANC decided this week to file an urgent application for a 36-hour extension on a deadline to submit a full list of local government candidates to the IEC. It withdrew its bid hours later.

In its urgent application on Tuesday, the ruling party blamed Covid-19 lockdown regulations and a technical glitch in its systems for its failure to meet a deadline to submit its candidates list to the IEC. 

The legal bid came after the ANC failed to convince the IEC to reopen its registration processes on 24 August, with the commission saying this would leave too little time to print the 78-million ballots that must be delivered to 23 121 voting stations in time for the local government elections.

Read the court order below:

Order_ CCT 24521 IEC v Mini… by Mail and Guardian