As the Election Commission reopens its candidate nomination process on Monday, the Constitutional Court will also hand down its judgement on whether or not it is allowed to do so.
On 6 September, the ConCourt shut down an attempt by the IEC to move the local government elections to 2022.
In its reasons handed down only yesterday, the apex court noted although its judgment “does not determine that the absence of a voter registration weekend would be fatal to the freeness and fairness of elections held on or before 1 November 2021, it has been widely recognised by the litigants that the holding of such a weekend would be highly desirable and would enhance the fairness of the elections”.
“The [Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s] decision to proclaim the election date had to be rationally related to the purposes for which the power was given,” wrote acting Justice Owen Rogers in the majority judgement.
“Although her proclamation was rationally related to the purpose of fixing the date for voting, it was not rationally related to the subsidiary purpose of fixing the eligibility date for voting at the proclaimed elections.
“On the contrary, it foreclosed the possibility of a voter registration weekend by which perhaps half a million citizens would have been added to the roll and another million would have changed their registration details.”
Nearly 630 000 people registered with the IEC over the past two days.
While the IEC accepted the order handed down by the ConCourt, and declared elections will take place on 1 November, it also opened the candidate lists, provoking paroxysms of anger from various political parties.
“We wish to warn the IEC not to misinterpret this court judgement and the instruction to open voter registration as an opportunity to reopen the process of candidate submission forward and proportional representation submission,” the EFF had previously said in a statement.
“All political parties were afforded the same amount of time to submit their candidates by [23 August], in the same platform and under the same deadline. Any attempt to reopen that process would confirm that the IEC operates on the whims and needs of the ruling party and lacks independence and partiality.”
With the ANC failing to register candidates in 93 municipalities, the IEC opening the process again was welcome news for the party which is reportedly still battling to sort its candidates out.
The IEC decision also opened the door for the DA, EFF and Cope to challenge the matter, with the DA requesting direct and immediate access to the ConCourt, saying the court’s decision was not “a licence to make amendment[s] that are unconnected to reopening the roll and which the Commission already decided not to make.”
“The Commission’s decision is not permitted by this courts order,” the DA’s Werner Horn said in his founding affidavit.
“This Court expressly dismissed an application for the extension of the period for the nomination of candidates.”
Naturally, the ANC opposed this, saying the DA’s “strained interpretation” of the court order “fundamentally departed therefrom.
The ANC also took the DA to task for its allegations the ANC had received advance warning of the judgement, which may have raised the ire of the sitting court which is, in this case, the ConCourt.
This paragraph makes me think I am owed an apology by some commentators. Please sit down.— Helen Zille (@helenzille) September 19, 2021
“The DA has publicly made spurious, unfounded and vexatious accusations against the ANC and this Court, in which it claimed that the ANC had received advance warning of the content of the judgment delivered on 4 September 2021,” the ANC noted.
“The DA’s comments were false, but the DA made them knowing them to be false and without any regard to the impact they have on the public perception about the standing and reputation of this Court.”
Judgement was made off the court papers and no oral submissions were made.
It is expected to be handed down at 10 am on Monday.