POLL | Should the 2021 local government elections be postponed?

The local government elections are set for October 27. File photo.
The local government elections are set for October 27. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

It remains to be seen whether the 2021 local government elections will be held as scheduled on October 27, as retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke hears public submissions into whether free and fair elections can be held amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) appointed Moseneke to look into the feasibility of holding the elections later this year. 

Several politicians and community leaders have shared their thoughts in presentations before Moseneke this week.

EFF leader Julius Malema is expected to share his stance with the inquiry on Friday, having said several times the elections should be postponed to save lives.

“How, practically, are we going to campaign if we are to be consistent with Covid-19 protocols? Campaigns constitute a critical component of free and fair elections. As we speak now, President Cyril Ramaphosa said political party activities are suspended,” Malema said last month

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane made a submission to the Moseneke inquiry earlier this week, calling for the October elections to go ahead. He argued that South Africans should have their say on who leads their municipalities amid the pandemic and slow vaccination rollout.

Maimane made several proposals to ensure voters are kept safe while casting their ballots, including pre-health assessment of all polling officials, extending voting to three days, increasing the amount of voting stations, transforming corporate spaces into voting stations and proxy voting.

The IEC on Tuesday postponed by-elections that were expected to be held on Wednesday, citing lockdown alert level 4 restrictions.

Wits University vaccinologist Prof Shabir Madhi and the head of the SA National Aids Council Dr Fareed Abdullah, both told the inquiry the country could be in the grips of a fourth wave by October.

“We need to see something substantial on a scale we have never seen before with vaccine rollout if we want talk about elections in the near future and even under those circumstances, I don’t think October is a possibility,” said Abdullah.

ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont told the inquiry postponing the elections would be an assault on the constitution of the country.

“We are confident that with a reduction in infection rates, adequate planning and proper public communication on plans, elections can be held safely.

“As an organisation committed to the constitutional rule of law, we believe any decision to postpone or delay elections would be an assault on the constitution. ActionSA would actively oppose any such move,” Beaumont said.

Moseneke plans to hand his final report to the IEC by July 21.