Local govt elections going ahead despite virus, it seems
The process could face a serious hurdle as the Municipal Demarcation Board was forced to suspend community consultations about ward demarcations.
Picture: Neil McCartney
Picture: Neil McCartney
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Virus or no virus, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is hastily preparing for next year’s local government elections, as there is a lot of work to be done.
Indications are that the IEC would prepare and continue with business as usual as if there would be no coronavirus outbreak by the time the elections were held towards the end of next year.
But the process could face a serious hurdle as the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) was forced to suspend community consultations about ward demarcations due to Covid 19. Public consultation is central to the country’s constitutional democracy and underpins ward delimitation.
Despite that, the IEC has to work against time as the elections must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the current term, which is 2 August 2021. Clearly, the process could not wait as there is a lot of work to be done in terms of processes to be followed before the polls were held.
According to IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo, the current phase of preparations entailed drafting of the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. The legislation’s objects include a varied voting procedure for voters without addresses to ensure they do not lose their franchise rights.
“Additionally, improvements to procedures for the registration of political parties are embedded in the draft Bill. Furthermore, the current preparations include the development of project milestones and the drafting of the communication strategy for the general elections of municipal councils,” Mamabolo said.
Ahead of the elections, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has to devise formulae for the determination of the number of councillors per council, while the MDB must determine the number of wards per municipal council.
“The MDB indicates that the process of community consultations, which underpins the ward delimitation process, has now being suspended owing to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mamabolo said.
“The impact of this delay on the whole electoral process is currently indeterminate.”
Asked about how deaths due to Covid-19 will affect the voters’ roll, Mamabolo said the commission’s general operational principle was to update the voters’ roll monthly by removing the reported cases of those who died.
“Although the Electoral Commission cannot speculate about future trajectory of Covid-19 related deaths, on the basis of the current reported cases of the virus the impact appear not significant,” Mamabolo said.
No decisions have been made in respect of the date of elections. However, the 90-day period in which an election could be held is between 3 August 2021, and 3 November 2021.
This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed worry that Covid-19 could take as long as two years to clear and warned that South Africans must prepare for that eventuality.
It is not clear whether, at this stage, the current lockdown would be ended at the scheduled date of 30 May, but it is clear that it would go through all the various levels set by Ramaphosa until it reached level 1.
The lockdown was currently on level 4, which allowed for certain areas of the economic activities to be allowed, while most of the regulations were left intact.
Ramaphosa said it depended on how people behave before it was determined whether to lift the restrictions, but the social distancing and the wearing of masks, among others, would remain for some time to come.
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