Parliament, Wednesday, 7 April 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) had an engagement yesterday with the Department of Cogta and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the state of readiness for the 2021 local government elections.
The committee also received briefings from the South African Local Government Association and the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB). The MDB briefed the committee on, among other things, the status of the ward delimitation process, an analysis of 2021 wards and the impact of the Municipal Structures Amendment Bill on the MDB.
The committee told the IEC that the preparations for the 2021 electoral cycle are unique, as they are taking place under unusual circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic and the looming possible third wave of infections are new challenges not previously encountered in any electoral cycle.
The committee said by-elections in various municipal areas that occurred over the past few months have provided the IEC with an opportunity to test the implementation of its Covid-19 health safety protocols. However, it cannot be taken for granted that this experience has prepared the IEC sufficiently to host country-wide elections in the context of a pandemic.
The committee would therefore like to understand the adjustments that have made to tackle the challenge on a national scale.
The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said: “The advantage of holding the local government elections after the national and provincial elections is that it affords the IEC an opportunity to look back and reflect on lessons learned. This provides ample scope for the commission to identify and mitigate all the factors that have the potential to compromise the integrity of the elections.”
Ms Muthambi continued: “The pandemic, as well as the worrisome budget cuts to the commission, have added an extra layer of complexity to the process. This calls for all the affected stakeholders to go the extra mile to surmount these challenges and deliver another successful round of credible, free and fair elections. Our responsibility as this committee is to ensure that all the relevant role players are doing their part to make this happen.”
The committee asked the IEC about plans to deal with the possibility of “out of control” Covid-19 infections during elections. It also wanted to know about when e-voting would be introduced in South Africa. Both the Chairperson of the IEC and the CEO shared the IEC’s plans to continue with elections during election time and on the introduction of e-voting.
The committee heard that the Minister of Cogta is still consulting on the date for elections. The committee will convene a follow-up meeting soon where provincial electoral officers will brief the committee on the support they get from provincial governments to ensure the success of local government elections.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, MS FAITH MUTHAMBI.
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