IEC says its hands are tied in postponing elections amid Covid-19

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IEC says its hands are tied in postponing elections amid Covid-19
IEC says its hands are tied in postponing elections amid Covid-19

Africa-PressSouth-Africa. Cape Town – The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) told members of Parliament that it was not within its authority to extend the terms of councillors or postpone elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The electoral body made this clear when it was briefing the co-operative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee on its readiness to hold the upcoming municipal elections.

Briefing the committee, chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the consultation on the election date has commenced but not concluded.

Mamabolo said once the consultative process was finalised, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma would take the country into her confidence in terms of the precise election day.

He told MPs that elections would take place within 90 days of the expiry of the five-year term of the current councillors.

“For the 2021 Local Government elections, that 90 day window starts on August 4 and ends on November 1, 2021.”

He said there would be one voter registration weekend owing to budget cuts, and that it would be announced when the election date was determined.

Mamabolo also told the MPs that there were 1.2 million registered voters who did not have recorded addresses.

This was taking place against 24.6m who have complete addresses and 252 000 with potentially incomplete addresses.

He said they have made a legal provision that would allow the 1.2m people without address to vote on election day.

“They however will have to furnish an address or a place where they live.

“If there is no address, sufficient particulars,” he said.

Mamabolo added that voters would be asked to bring along their own pens as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

“We will have pens, however, we are encouraging people to bring their pens so that there is no exchange of pens.

“Hopefully by so doing we will prevent possibilities of the transmission of the virus between the people.”

He also said voter management devices have been procured and contracts would be signed on Wednesday for their delivery.

“These devices are replacing Zipzap machines. The new imperative around addresses requires a new type of device,” he said.

“We specified a device that will integrate business processes, register, capture address and register in the right segment of the voters’ roll.”

Also briefing the committee, Municipal Demarcation Board chairperson Thabo Manyoni said they were going back to communities that were unhappy with the redrawing of ward boundaries to explain their decisions.

The board, which received 1465 objections last year, was receiving requests from communities to explain its decisions.

“The intention is to ensure that the potential voters are properly informed. Obviously to make sure at least we have smooth elections in terms of the forthcoming local government elections,” Manyoni said.

MPs asked questions about the risks associated with delivery of the voter management devices and whether they would detect fraudulent voting, among other things.

The EFF MPs, in particular, questioned the electoral body’s position on its call for a single election in 2024 that was inclusive of local, provincial and national elections.

They also raised questions that suggested unreadiness of the electoral body and also raised the issue about not campaigning fully during Covid-19.

Janet Love, IEC’s board deputy chairperson, said there were issues of legitimacy on those holding elected positions when elections were not held.

Love also said the commission could not make a call on postponement of the elections.

Deputy chief electoral officer Mashego Shiburi said the constitution and municipal legislation placed a ceiling on the terms of a municipal council and that it was five years.

“The constitution further dictates an election be held within 90 days of expiry of the term.

“This requires that the commission must stand ready to administer an election at the earliest possible date whenever lawfully called upon.

“The authority to call and set an election rests with the executive.

“It does not rest with the Electoral Commission,” Shiburi said.

He also said there were constitutional mechanisms to allow for elections beyond 90 days expiry of the term.

Co-operative Governance Deputy Minister Obed Bapela said Dlamini Zuma has been thoroughly and fully engaged by the IEC and other bodies on the election readiness.

Bapela said Dlamini was still engaging “upwards” as the Constitution dictated.

“As she engages upwards she also has to engage on issues of Covid-19 as to whether a third wave is on its way and where the country will be on the issue of vaccination.

“At a rightful point the minister, having engaged, will come back and indicate to the portfolio committee and the nation as to when the elections are to be held,” he said.

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