Leaders of the opposition in Parliament complained to the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), Mr Glen Mashinini, about what they consider to be President Cyril Ramaphosa’s premature announcement that the 2021 local government elections will be held on 27 October 2021. The lack of consultation with political parties before the announcement only compounds the problem, the said.
Political party leaders were attending a virtual Political Liaison Committee meeting yesterday when they made these complaints. The Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP’s) Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa also noted that the current projections about Covid-19 infections during the election period are based on “nothing but hope”. This will have a direct bearing on the feasibility of political campaign activities and the elections themselves, and will likely increase the risk of infection.
“It worries one to think that IEC will have to open up well over 22 000 stations for registration through the country,” Mr Hlengwa noted. “This against a vaccination process that does not inspire confidence.”
The Deputy President of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Mr Floyd Shivambu, agreed with this view. He questioned the wisdom of holding elections in October when there is no reliable scientific evidence on which to base this decision. He further asked if the IEC was consulted by the ministers concerned before the announcement of the date was made.
The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, responded to say that government has been in constant consultation with the IEC and has briefed it extensively on the matter. The Minister of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, also responded that they have consulted the IEC on the feasibility of elections. Government is of the view that the elections can take place, given the current low levels of infections. She added that if health and safety protocols are adhered to, the situation is likely to remain constant, which would increase the feasibility of holding elections.
Other political leaders raised concerns that the pandemic could impact on the potential for free and fair elections’ fair. Responding to that, the IEC’s Chief Executive Officer’s Office, Mr Sy Mamabolo, said if such situation is eminent the IEC can consult the Constitutional Court to extend the terms of municipal officials until it is possible to hold elections.
Despite this explanation, the leader of Economic Freedom Fighters, Mr Julius Malema, questioned whether these elections would be free and fair, given that if they go ahead as planned activities such as door-to-door campaigns and rallies will be constrained. In his view, free and fair elections are unlikely in this scenario. The EFF believes that the 2021 local government elections should be postponed to a later date, as Covid-19 has hampered political activities.