The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will launch an urgent application on Wednesday at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to have the October municipal elections deferred.
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini made the announcement at a media briefing in Pretoria, saying the commission wanted the polls to be held no later than February 2022.
“This court application is an extraordinary one and presumably unprecedented. The issues which are core to the application have a bearing on the political rights of citizens as well as the right to life, bodily and psychological integrity and access to health,” he said.
“The application will undoubtedly offer the Constitutional Court another opportunity to contribute to the evolving jurisprudence of our constitutional order.”
Dlamini-Zuma said this was to enable the IEC to file papers in the ConCourt to postpone the elections.
Voters’ roll closed
Mashinini said the voters’ roll was officially closed on Tuesday at midnight for the upcoming polls.
“This means no new voters may be admitted to the voter’s roll for the proclaimed election date and this is inclusive of all forms of registration that is both physical as well as the electronic registration,” he said.
The current voter’s rolls stood at 25.7 million registered voters, with 17,964 successful registrations done online.
“The proclamation of the election date also opens the candidate nomination process and this window period will conclude on 23 August 2021 at 17h00,” Mashinini said.
Mashinini said the IEC would also publish the election timetable while it waits for the ConCourt’s judgment.
“The commission will undertake the activities which must be performed in terms of the timetable until a competent court orders differently,” he said.
In June, the IEC adopted the final report of former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s inquiry into the feasibility of holding the local polls.
Moseneke found that the elections were unlikely to be free and fair due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the government on public gatherings, including political events.
The inquiry recommended that the polls be held no later than February 2022.
Dlamini-Zuma said on Tuesday her department was not seeking to contradict Moseneke’s report and was “in agreement with the outcomes of the Moseneke inquiry”.
Certainty on elections needed
Mashinini said the IEC’s application was launched on an urgent basis because South Africans required certainty on the preparations for the elections.
He said the commission wanted the ConCourt to authorise Dlamini-Zuma to withdraw her proclamation and issue a fresh notice setting a date before the end of February 2022 for the elections to be held.
“The commission and electoral stakeholders are currently in an untenable position where preparations are proceeding for the 27 October whilst at the same anticipating the outcome of the Constitutional Court application for a possible deferral of elections to February 2022.”
Should the ConCourt dismiss their application, Mashinini said they wanted the apex court to declare that “failure to hold the municipal elections by 1 November 2021 is unconstitutional and invalid, and suspend the declaration of invalidity until the end of February 2022″.
The IEC also wants the ConCourt to take on a supervisory role so that it can report to the court periodically on its progress in arranging the elections.
“In order to avoid uncertainty about the legal status of current municipal councils, the commission seeks an order that the municipal councils remain competent until newly elected councils are declared elected,” Mashinini said.