As the country battles the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Electoral Commission has, in the past weeks, resolved to reschedule the voter registration set to take place this weekend.
A statement issued by the national office indicated that the registration was postponed to July 31 and August 1 following a surge in Covid-19 infections and also considering factors involving the constitutional timeframe which requires the elections to be held before November 1, 2021 and the minimum period required for the election timetable.
“The two-week postponement will have a knock-on effect on certain dates and activities associated with the proclamation and election, including delaying proclamation by four days until August 6. However, the commission remains confident that successful elections can be held within a reduced election timetable of 82 days rather than the original 86 days.”
The statement further indicated that the commission had limited scope to move the registration weekend without postponing the elections.
“The commission has taken this very difficult decision in the interests of saving lives of voters, election staff, party representatives and all citizens while still preserving the Constitutional requirement to hold elections. The commission is awaiting the final report of the Moseneke Inquiry into whether the elections can be free and fair if they proceed as scheduled on October 27. The inquiry is being led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is scheduled to present his report and its recommendations to the commission by July 21.”
ANC regional secretary Lusanda Sizani said the region welcomed the decision. “The postponement comes with the country on alert level 4 and increased numbers of infections of Covid-19 and the new Delta variant. We respect the decision by the president and the ANC is happy in respect of people’s lives. We appreciate the massive roll-out of vaccination to all the stages and appeal to people to wear masks and not attend gatherings. The party anticipates changes based on the continuation of the virus and we appeal to people to respect regulations and pronouncements by the president. The Chris Hani region is ready for the elections and we have conducted 107 branch nominations. Only three branches have not convened their branch general meetings. We will wait for guidance and instructions from our leadership.”
Aaron Mhlontlo of the United Front Plus said there was a great likelihood that voter registration would be postponed again in August. “The postponement will be influenced by the recommendations of retired judge Moseneke’s commission. I suspect the commission will say elections must be postponed from October to a period not exceeding six months. The likelihood is that the elections may not be held this year. The issue of campaigning is not easy due to restrictions,” he said.
EFF regional interim leadership core member Lindani Mdlokolo said the IEC was not ready for elections, indicating the party still maintained elections should be postponed until 2024 for everyone to get an equal chance. “These elections will not be free and fair. It shows the IEC is not ready. Local government elections are difficult and need time. We were ready for the registration weekend because we have launched 90% of branches in the district. If alert level 4 regulations are extended, they will have to postpone again. For political parties, it is hard to mobilise people due to restrictions. We understand there is an issue of service delivery, but it is our people who voted those crooks into government and they must wait until 2024,” said Mdlokolo.
“The DA respects the IEC’s decision to postpone by two weeks as South Africa is battling a very contagious Covid-19 third wave. We are living in unprecedented times and do not want voters to be endangered. The postponement affects all parties. South Africa has never dealt with a global pandemic in an election year before, thus there may very be further changes in the election programme,” said Lindy Haggard of the DA.