IEC to file urgent court bid to postpone elections after Moseneke’s report
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) has taken a resolution to accept the non-binding findings of former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to postpone the local government elections.
Commission chairperson Glen Mashinini said the IEC would approach a relevant court to seek a postponement of the elections after thoroughly studying Moseneke’s report and holding extensive consultations.
“The commission has therefore resolved to urgently brief senior counsel to launch an application in a court of competent jurisdiction to seek judicial authorisation to conduct the election outside the constitutionally prescribed time periods,” he said.
The constitution stipulates that when the five-year term of a municipal council expires, an election must be held within 90 days of the date on which that council’s term expired. The current term expires in November.
Constitutional law expert Piere de Vos warned that either decision — to postpone or not — would not be an easy choice.
Postponement can only happen in two ways. Either through an amendment of the constitution, which could take months and require a vast majority of the National Assembly members to support. Or the IEC can approach the court and to get it to extend the terms of the municipalities. However, the constitution prohibits this.
Mashinini said the IEC did not have authority to change anything as far as the constitutional and legal mandate was concerned.
“What we’re saying is that in light of the report, it would not be feasible for us to conduct the elections. We are making approaches and in that process we are working with our counsel.
“We don’t know if the courts will grant this request yet.”
Moseneke recommended that elections be postponed to no later than February 2022 if they were to be free and fair.
The IEC has also taken a resolution to postpone the voter weekend registration scheduled for July 31 and August 1. This was to preserve lives, said Mashinini.
“This decision is grounded on the epidemiological projections advanced in the Moseneke Report and the persisting high levels of Covid-19 infections and mortality in the country.”
Political parties were among the most divided stakeholders after the report was released.
The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said the party rejected its findings and the party was considering its next steps.
“The DA does not support the postponement of the local government elections. We have said from the start it is possible to hold elections within Covid-19 protocols. The DA will study the Moseneke Report in light of the constitutional implications thereof and communicate our next steps in due course,” she said.
The IFP and the EFF accepted Moseneke’s findings and called for an emergency convening of the National Assembly to pass an urgent motion to amend the constitution to allow for the postponement of elections.
It was not immediately clear when the voter registration weekend would take place.
“The new dates for the voter registration weekend will be announced in due course. In the meantime, the commission reminds all eligible voters that the online registration facility launched recently will continue to provide a safe, convenient and easy way to register as a voter and to update registration details,” said the commission.
Mashinini said the IEC would immediately consult with co-operative government and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the authority responsible for the proclamation of the elections.