‘Let us trust in Moseneke’, says Ramaphosa over election inquiry
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday pleaded with South Africans to allow a panel led by justice Dikgang Moseneke to investigate whether it will be suitable to hold free and fair elections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Local government elections are scheduled to take place on October 27, though Ramaphosa said the date, which he announced in April, “does not constitute a proclamation” under law.
“The proclamation will be issued by the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta),” he said.
The president said for the first time since its establishment, the Electoral Commission (IEC) is faced with the prospect of conducting elections during a pandemic.
Concerns have been expressed by some political parties represented on the party liaison committee that the elections may not be free and fair given the impact of the pandemic and measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Cognisant of its obligation to ensure the elections are free and fair, the IEC has commissioned Moseneke to lead the inquiry into ensuring free and fair local government elections during Covid-19.
The inquiry is expected to do three things: inquire into the conditions for free and fair elections; come up with findings following the inquiry; and issue a report in which recommendations are set out concerning the likelihood the IEC would be able to ensure the forthcoming elections will be free and fair.
It has also been asked to indicate additional measures the IEC may be required to implement to realise free and fair elections within the context of the pandemic.
Any possible postponement of elections is a matter on which the IEC will have to make a determination in terms of the provisions of the Constitution and applicable legal prescripts.
As there is no determination of a postponement at this stage, no other date has been considered for the elections other than October 27 .
Ramaphosa said to pre-empt Moseneke’s response will be making a mistake.
“Let us allow the process he has been tasked to lead to take place. What in my view is most pleasing is that many of the things we do have checks and balances so if we ever make a mistake on anything, we are able to be checked so we can create the balance.”
Ramaphosa said the inquiry process would check whether the decision the government took to hold local government elections in October was correct.
“They will approach their work most scientifically and work with experts who will give sound advice.”
Answering whether the panel was established to postpone the elections, Ramaphosa said government was not creating a sense of panic so the elections can be moved to a later stage.
“As government I made an announcement that the elections should go ahead and even set a date in October, a date which will be duly proclaimed by the Cogta minister. I need to be told in what way we are therefore creating panic.
“If anything we are dealing with the matter as carefully as we can because we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to watch infections. When we get concerned about the rising number of infections, we inform the nation and in that regard we have tended to be as transparent as we can.”
Ramaphosa said the IEC told government it needed a legal framework to comply with the constitutional prescripts to declare the elections would go ahead.
“Out of great caution, the IEC said we would like to establish an inquiry led by a highly reputable individual and the body politic of our country to establish the elections can be considered free and fair.”
“ I don’t know how we can bring the judge into this and ask if he aware of the constitutional prescripts and claim he could be creating a constitutional crisis. I am not sure where that comes from and where it belongs.
“Let us trust the process. Let us trust the prescripts of our constitution. If nothing else, the constitution is a shock-absorber that helps to balance whatever turbulence there may be. Let us trust the IEC to manage this process properly without any undue interference. Let us continue to trust Moseneke. He has been able to do good on a number of occasions, handling tricky issues that affect our country. He will continue to do so.
“Let us leave those institutions that have served us in the past.”
On the measures put in place to curb violent protests, Rampahosa said he was confident in the people of South Africa. He said when it comes to voting, they have always been responsible.
“I have no doubt our people will not do anything to disrupt the execution of this important right. Our people will always act correctly when it comes to this issue.”
He said South Africans have been affected by service delivery lapses, and will seek to express themselves.
“Our people must express themselves in whatever way they want but they do not have the right to embark on violence, to restrict the rights of other people, or damage public property Nobody has a right to act in a way that restricts the rights of others.”
Ramphosa said South Africana were inherently peaceful people.
“I would insist they should not express their anger in a violent manner.”