Former deputy chief justice Moseneke says elections can’t happen later this year — here are five reasons why

21 July 2021 - 14:20
By cebelihle bhengu AND Cebelihle Bhengu
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has recommended elections are postponed until February next year.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has recommended elections are postponed until February next year.

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke engaged medical experts, scientists and  other experts during his investigation into whether it is safe for SA to hold local government elections during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Moseneke was appointed by the Electoral Commission (IEC) in May to look into the feasibility of elections later this year. He said politicians were deeply divided in their submissions about whether elections should go ahead or be postponed.

One SA chief activist Mmusi Maimane said postponement means a delay in accountability.

“Our movement holds the view that this is an extraordinary recommendation that need not have been arrived at. Postponing elections not only sets a dangerous constitutional precedent, it also extends the ANC’s misrule of municipalities,” he said. 

Here are just five reasons why Moseneke recommended the postponement: 

Elections must be free and fair 

Moseneke said the constitution requires the elections be regular, free and fair. He said elections cannot be held without one of these pillars as this would mean they are not democratic. 

“Elections must not only be regular, they must also be free and fair. The constitution does not create an optional binary that says elections must be irregular but need not be free and fair or that they must be free and fair even if they are not regular.”

Postpone to a later date 

Moseneke recommended the elections be postponed to February next year.

“Having considered all the submissions of stakeholders, applicable law, research on electoral practices during the Covid-19 pandemic and the related science, we conclude it is not reasonably possible or likely the local government elections scheduled for the month of October 2021 will be held in a free and fair manner, as required by the peremptory provisions of the constitution and related legislation.

“We find the scheduled elections are likely to be free and fair if they were to be held not later than the end of February 2022.”

Face to face registrations 

Moseneke said under the alert level 4 lockdown regulations which may be extended beyond July 25, the safety of voters who do not have the means for electronic registrations is compromised.

“If elections were to proceed as scheduled, most of the acts required to be performed in accordance to the draft timetable will not be reasonably possible, starting with the face-to-face registration of voters who do not have access to electronic registration.”

Postponement of by-elections 

Moseneke said the postponement of by-elections in 2020 and 2021 in lower lockdown levels demonstrated the risk associated with gatherings during the pandemic.

“The commission said the government’s measures and restrictions would be undermined, and that the population was more aware of the risk of infections and the new variants of the virus and there was a real possibility voters would stay away from the polls.”

Parties must be free to prepare for elections 

Political organisations and independent candidates must be free to hold rallies and campaign for the elections.

“Freedom to participate in elections is fundamental to the conduct of the free and fair elections. This includes the freedom to canvas, advertise and engage in activities normal to a person seeking election.”