ConCourt to hear application to postpone local government election

20 August 2021 - 07:00 By ernest mabuza
The Electoral Commission of SA says that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unable to organise constitutionally compliant local government elections on October 27 that will be free, fair and safe on that date. File photo.
The Electoral Commission of SA says that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unable to organise constitutionally compliant local government elections on October 27 that will be free, fair and safe on that date. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

The Constitutional Court will on Friday hear an urgent application by the Electoral Commission of SA, which wants the local government elections postponed.

The elections are scheduled for October 27 this year.

The commission contends that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unable to organise constitutionally compliant local government elections that will be free, fair and safe on that date.

The constitution provides that the term of a municipal council may be no more than five years and an election must be held within 90 days of the date that the term of a municipal council expires.

The last local government election was held on August 3 2016, and the current term of all municipal councils ended on August 3 this year. By law, the general local government election is required to be held by November 1 this year.

The commission appointed former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to inquire whether the commission would be able to ensure a free and fair local government election if held in October this year,  in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown regulations.

Moseneke recommended that the upcoming local government elections are likely to be free and fair if they were to be held not later than the end of February next year.

The commission is asking the court to postpone the election to February 28, 2022.

The Western Cape MEC for local government is opposing the application. But the ANC, the IFP and the EFF, which have been admitted as intervening parties, support the application by the commission.

The ANC suggests that the election should be postponed until April 2022 and the IFP submits that the elections should be postponed until May 26 2022.

Their submissions are premised on the anticipated fourth wave of Covid-19 infections and time constraints.

The DA, the Makana Independent New Deal, the African Transformation Movement, the Forum 4 Service Delivery and the One SA Movement — which have also been admitted as intervening parties — oppose the application by the commission.

Their opposition is on the basis that the Constitutional Court has no power to postpone the elections because it would amount to a constitutional amendment, and only parliament has the power to amend the constitution.

The DA further contends that the risks posed by Covid-19 can be managed and it will in fact be safer to hold elections in October 2021 than in February 2022.

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), the Freedom Under Law NPC (FUL), the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and AfriForum, which have been admitted as friends of the court, oppose the application.

Casac says the court does not have the power to grant the relief sought by the commission.

FUL submits that the commission has failed to show that it timeously took the necessary steps to ensure that it is prepared to discharge its constitutional duty.

The IRR submits that October is likely to be a period of low Covid-19 transmission and the elections can be held in a staggered manner that would reduce the risks posed by Covid-19.

AfriForum says scientific evidence suggests that October will be a period of low infections and that it is not impossible for the elections to be held on October 27 this year.

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