Political parties can go full throttle on their campaigning, including door-to-door visits, leading up to this year’s local government elections, but Covid-19 safety protocols should still be adhered to.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gave this green light for canvassing on Wednesday as she proclaimed a new date of 1 November for this year’s local elections.
Dlamini-Zuma had previously proclaimed 27 October as the voting day, but the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) petitioned the Constitutional Court for a postponement to next February following a report from former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke. Moseneke said that, in light of the raging Covid-19 pandemic and low vaccination rates, it would be safer to push the elections to next year.
The Constitutional Court dismissed the IEC’s postponement application on Friday and ruled that the vote be conducted between 27 October and 1 November.
On Wednesday, Dlamini-Zuma said her department had decided to choose the “outermost date” within the range stipulated by the apex court because “the IEC indicated that it would need as much time as possible to prepare for elections”.
“I confirm the commitment I made in my explanatory affidavit to abide by the decision of the Constitutional Court. Therefore, I accept the Constitutional Court decision to set aside the [27 October] proclamation,” the minister said.
“So, after consultation with the IEC, we have come to a determination that this year’s local government elections will be held on 1 November 2021.”
She added that political parties had a right to campaign, but cautioned them to be responsible.
“They can campaign, go door to door, but they have to keep to the protocols,” Dlamini-Zuma said, calling for regular hand sanitisation, the wearing of face masks in public and the maintenance of physical distancing to avoid spreading the virus.
Some political watchers and opposition parties say the IEC has given the ANC a lifeline after the commission reopened the registration of candidates, a move that will allow the ruling party to register candidates in 93 municipalities after it had missed an earlier deadline. Candidate registration, the IEC said on Monday, 6 September, would be open on 20 and 21 September.
Dlamini-Zuma confirmed that the main opposition Democratic Alliance had cited her as the second respondent in papers the party filed challenging the IEC’s decision to reopen candidate registration. The minister said she would not comment publicly on the matter as yet, but would do so in her replying affidavit.