The Electoral Commission has appointed former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, to lead the process of evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on conditions conducive for free and fair Local Government Elections on 27 October.
Making the announcement on Thursday, the IEC said Moseneke will undertake an urgent appraisal of all the relevant legal, socio-political, health, practical and other considerations, and submit a report to the Commission in July.
“In addition to assessing the various factors, the report may also make recommendations of additional measures to further fortify the integrity and safety of the elections,” IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said at a briefing.
The appointment is in line with Section 14(4) of the Electoral Commission Act. This section provides for the Commission, should it deem necessary, to publish a report on the likelihood or otherwise that it will be able to ensure that any pending elections will be free and fair.
Mashinini said the IEC has, over the past two years, engaged political parties through the National Party Liaison Committee (NPLC), as part of its preparations for the Local Government Elections in 2021.
“More recently, it has emerged that the various political parties are divided on whether the upcoming Local Government Elections can be free and fair within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the majority of political parties believe that elections should proceed under the extant Constitutional provisions, some parties have raised concerns that restrictions on campaigning imposed by the national disaster regulations could undermine the freeness and fairness of the elections,” he said.
Election preparations are already at an advanced stage and the Commission is satisfied that it is possible to conduct successful elections within the current circumstances.
“The commission is also confident that the special COVID-19 protocols and measures to be put in place for the elections will provide adequate safeguards. These measures have been tested in over 150 by-elections conducted over the past six months,” Mashinini said.
Mashinini said the proclamation of the elections by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, triggers a series of electoral processes, including the closing of the voters’ roll and the opening of candidate nominations.
“This proclamation must take place by early August in order to allow a minimum of 86 days for the Commission to undertake all its obligations, in terms of the elections timetable.
“In order to allow the Commission to benefit from the report, it needs to be submitted by mid-July at the latest,” he said.
In addition rto political parties, the process will also consider representations from health authorities, disaster management authorities, including CoGTA, and other relevant government structures.
“This is the first time in the history of our nascent democracy that we have faced such extraordinary circumstances. How we respond as a country will have far-reaching consequences for our democracy and for our people,” Moseneke said. – SAnews.gov.za