'Elections under current conditions will not be fair, free and healthy': Malema

EFF leader Julius Malema says if the local government elections go ahead in October they will not be free, fair and healthy. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema says if the local government elections go ahead in October they will not be free, fair and healthy. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

The EFF has warned that if retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke rules in favour of the Oct. 27 local polls going ahead as planned, the party would be left with no choice but to breach lockdown regulations that prohibit or limit gatherings.

“We are here to make a submission that if the local government elections proceed under the current conditions they will not be fair, will not be free and will not be healthy,” said EFF leader Julius Malema on Friday.

Proceeding with the October 2021 elections will violate section 190(1) of the constitution, which stipulates that the IEC must ensure the elections are free and fair, he said.

Malema was presenting the EFF's submission to the Moseneke inquiry, which is tasked with investigating whether the IEC can hold free and fair elections during a pandemic.

He said elections would not be free and fair under any alert level of lockdown, because the movement of politicians is curtailed, while the only effective method of communicating with voters is face to face.

Since the breakout of the pandemic, political activity has not been free because of the lockdown regulations, he said.

“The only time we are going to have the real time is when you [Moseneke] come out and say 'we are going to have elections'. That's when we will go to do things like choosing candidates.”

By the time Moseneke publishes his report, it will only be three months before the Oct. 27 election date announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year, he said.

“The new normal can't happen with us. We are a country that is not developed. The new normal requires a lot of sophistication. It requires gadgets, it requires data, it requires all manner of ICT that we do not have,” he said about political messages being reliant on technology.

“A new normal will be for the suburbs, for those who have access. We are a poverty-stricken country. The choice is between buying data and bread,” said Malema.

The EFF wants the elections to be postponed until April 2022.

He told the inquiry that elections were not just about what happens on election day, but they involve many activities and preparations which begin more than 12 months before the actual voting.

SA has 39m eligible voters, and 25m of those are on the voters' roll.

Any political party that seeks to have an impact on the election needs to build election machinery capable of speaking to all 39m voters.

“We have to do rallies and community meetings which constitute the core of our elections work,” he said.

“You will know that by now we should be in an election mode. Three to five months before an election, there should be a feeling in the country that there is an election coming. This necessitates motorcades, community meetings, rallies.

“You agitate to get everyone ready for the elections. In the absence of the mood of elections, we are going to suffer voter apathy,” warned Malema.

There will be no interest in voting because there is no excitement because no-one is agitating, communities are not coming together to express their excitement, frustrations and to show support for parties and candidates, he said.

He said the existing lockdown regulations which stop political gatherings are going to make it impossible to have a free and fair elections as politicians need to have access to voters without any restraint.

Proceeding with the October elections would mean the entire leadership and membership of the EFF would be arrested because they will have no choice but to call political gatherings.

“If you say we are proceeding, we are not going to comply with the lockdown regulations because we are not going to sit back and allow to be killed. We are going to have to go and fight for our survival because political power is our life.

“We need to be in power to remain relevant, to serve our people. Anything that says 'proceed' would be asking us to defy the lockdown,” he said.

Malema also called on Moseneke to consider voters' right to life, as the most important of all human rights.

“To say to people they must go and vote under such conditions, you are going to subject our people to what the people were subjected to in India,” he said in reference to thousands of deaths due to the highly infectious Delta variant in that country earlier this year.

“The right to vote doesn't supersede the right to life,” he added saying SA was in a war situation and can't hold elections at all costs under such a difficult situation.

He said the IEC should approach the electoral court and say it is not possible to have free and fair elections under lockdown restrictions.

On the constitutional concerns raised by some parties in relation to the term of municipal councils, Malema argued that the state has at times cut municipal terms short by dissolving councils and appointing administrators.

He said if the five-year terms could be cut short, it meant they could be extended.