Local government elections could be postponed by Covid-19 spike: IEC

The IEC says local government elections could still be derailed by Covid-19. File photo.
The IEC says local government elections could still be derailed by Covid-19. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

Electoral Commission CEO Sy Mamabolo says the commission cannot rule out this year's local government elections being postponed by Covid-19.

Mamabalo was answering questions at a press conference on Thursday about the elections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that the official date for the elections would be October 27. His announcement came amid calls from some opposition parties, led by Julius Malema's EFF, to postpone the elections because of Covid-19.  

The EFF led a delegation to meet other parties to argue that due to the lockdown regulations, this year's polls would not be free and fair.

“We don't know the trajectory of the pandemic. We had the minister of health this morning, who also indicated that the models that they have are not able to precisely indicate when the peak, the spike, will arise. 

“They can do so perhaps four weeks closer to the time, but at this point they can't say with certainty as to when that would be. So we can't predict the virus and when it is going to peak ... we can't preclude the possibility of a postponement in the context of the uncertainty,” said Mamabolo.

He said they had met political parties and the government, including health minister Zweli Mkhize, his deputy Joe Phaahla, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and home affairs deputy minister Njabulo Nzuza.

Mamabolo said some political parties, which he did not name, had argued strongly for the postponement of the elections.   

He said other parties asked the IEC to increase the number of special votes to minimise the number of people who physically went to voting stations.

“Arrangements will also be put in place for special votes. In this regard, the Electoral Commission notes proposals by a number of political parties for opportunities to be explored, including extending eligibility for a special vote to reduce congestion at voting stations on voting day.

“The commission will consider all possible measures within the legal framework and will announce further details on special voting in due course,” said Mamabolo.

He said there was no final decision on the matter but the commission was considering the possibility of extending the number of special voting days.

“We normally have two days for special voting and there is a proposal to extend that to a third day. The commission is considering that option, no decision has yet been made.”

He said it was not possible to extend the number of normal voting days because of the constraints presented by the constitution.

Mamabolo explained that the extension for special votes would entail the relaxation of the qualification age criteria to include people with comorbidities.



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