SA desperate for change but loss of life cannot be reversed, Moseneke hears

'The people of SA want change but let us not take a risk and play with their lives in the face of a deadly pandemic' — IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa

02 July 2021 - 18:15 By nonkululeko njilo
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

The IFP has made an impassioned plea to the Electoral Commission (IEC) and other stakeholders to do the right thing when deciding if local government elections should go ahead later this year.

The right thing would take into consideration people's lives and their democratic rights amid the deadly Covid-19 pandemic and collapsing municipalities, IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said. 

Speaking at the Moseneke inquiry — which has been hearing submissions on whether the October elections would be free and fair — Hlabisa said Moseneke had a momentous task, but he had a confidence in his ability to deliver a fair report.  

“We need to do the right thing first and, many times, doing the right thing is the most difficult. The right thing is to put our people and their democratic rights first.   

“The people of SA want change but let us not take a risk and play with their lives in the face of a deadly pandemic,” he said.  

Unlike other political parties which had adopted definite positions on whether the elections needed to be postponed, the IFP said it would rely on scientific evidence and the inquiry's determination.

“The IFP is very ready to go to elections should your recommendation say elections should go ahead on October 27, but as a health consideration and given the limitations of the state of disaster, the IFP is of the firm view that it is better to be on the side of caution.”

Moseneke asked Hlabisa to comment on when they would like the elections to be postponed to, if such a decision was taken.   

The party suggested May 2022, because the government would have made significant strides in its vaccination programme by then.

“However, we want to maintain that we shouldn’t take a risk with the lives of people. We can postpone the date but we cannot reverse the death of our people if we became reckless.”

Meanwhile, the PAC outright rejected the possibility of elections going ahead.

PAC president Narius Moloto said forging ahead would hit the smaller parties the most, citing limitations in resources to campaign under current lockdown conditions.

He said elections needed to be postponed, with a plan in place.  

“Our view is: postpone the programme with a plan. We cannot just postpone and fold our hands. If we simply just change the day, the next one will come and go and it will be a disaster.”

He said elections were about active politics and it was important for smaller parties to be physically on the ground with potential voters — and under the current climate this was impossible.

He cited the prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people, saying if elections went ahead, it would be a gross contradiction. 

Al Jama-ah president Ganief Hendricks told the inquiry that elections must go ahead in October even though they could possibly be unfair. 

“It must be clear to you, judge, that free and fair elections can only take place in terms of the present IEC readiness under level 1 or when the disaster management declaration no longer applies. This is not only Russian roulette, but a pipe dream. All we can do is get the country ready for a system of postal votes,” he argued.  

Hendricks said his party had come to terms with the need for a new normal, saying the different stakeholders could be roped in to raise awareness campaigns virtually. 

“Campaigning leading up to an election just is not going to happen as we know it. Campaigning can only happen if the state broadcaster gives more free airtime to political parties 60 days before election day,” he said.  

Asked to comment on herd immunity, Hendricks said this too was a dream. “We feel that will never reach immunity because of the various strains that exist.” 

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