IEC postpones voter registration weekend over third-wave fears
The Electoral Commission has postponed the voter registration by two weeks to the end of July, citing the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping through the country.
“At a special meeting today [Wednesday], the commission resolved to reschedule the voter registration weekend from July 17 and 18 to the weekend of July 31 and August 1,” said the commission.
It said the decision was made after a review of the prevailing conditions, including the rate of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations over the past seven days and the pandemic's affect on preparations for the registration weekend.
The commission also considered concerns raised by political parties through the national party liaison committee of proceeding with voter registration as well as warnings from health officials and other experts during last week’s oral submissions before the Moseneke inquiry regarding the risks of proceeding with a voter registration weekend under the current conditions.
Health experts told the inquiry last week that the third wave of infections was likely to persist until at least the end of the month.
“Taking into consideration the various factors including the constitutional time frame which requires the elections to be held before November 1 2021 and the minimum period required for the election timetable, the commission resolved to postpone the voter registration weekend to the latest possible date, which is July 31 to August 1.”
It said the two-week postponement will have a knock-on effect on certain dates and activities associated with the proclamation and election, including delaying proclamation by four days until August 6.
“However, the commission remains confident that successful elections can be held within a reduced election timetable of 82 days rather than the original 86 days.”
The commission said it took “this very difficult decision” in the interests of saving lives of voters, election staff, party representatives and all citizens while still preserving the constitutional requirement to hold elections.
The IEC said while it accepts that two weeks’ delay may not be ideal to allow the third wave to begin to decline in all provinces, it had very limited scope to move the registration weekend without postponing the elections themselves.
Most party representatives welcomed the decision to postpone for two weeks though parties in favour of a postponement of the elections urged for a longer postponement, said the IEC.
It said it will continue to monitor developments regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, the outcome of the Moseneke inquiry and all other relevant factors over the coming weeks.
“Any further changes to the election plans will be made in consultation with political parties, government authorities and other key stakeholders and will be communicated with all stakeholders,” it said.
Appearing before retired deputy chief justice's inquiry last week, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte requested Moseneke to recommend that the IEC postpone the voter registration weekend to at least 10 days after the total ban on gatherings ended.
The IEC appointed the inquiry to investigate whether it can hold free and fair elections during a pandemic.