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Postpone local gvt polls to February 2022 – Moseneke

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke tabled the report into the outcome of his inquiry in Centurion on Tuesday, recommending that elections be deferred by no later than February 2022.

An inquiry into free and fair local government elections set for October, has recommended a postponement due to the coronavirus.

Led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, the major recommendation is that the elections be deferred to no later than February 2022.

Moseneke tabled the report on Tuesday in Centurion. The probe was into the possibility of free and fair local elections amid raging coronavirus infections set for 27 October.

Moseneke said after several submissions by nine health experts, political parties and public views – one thing was clear that the risk to human life and livelihood posed by infections on the set election time were high.

The experts consulted included Professor Karim Abdool, Professor Shabir Madhi and Dr Faheed Abdullah.

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“We acknowledge that the elections should be held soon, but it cannot be at the cost of any lives lost,” Moseneke said.

“Having considered everything .We conclude that it is not reasonably possible or likely that local government elections scheduled for the month of October 2021, will be held in a free manner, as required by the constitution and related legislation.

“We recommend that elections be deferred to no later than February 2022.”

Moseneke said although the constitution did not provide a window for municipal leaders to rule for more than five years, it did state that elections should be free and fair.

He said it was in the electoral court’s hands to give deferment of the election date.

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In the submissions made by the nine health experts, Moseneke said although there were conflicting views they had a common recommendation that although infections in October would be relatively low, and the number of those vaccinated would also be low, this could pose risks to high infections and increasing death toll.

Moseneke said South Africa still needed to reach a stage of a decline in deaths and this could be achieved through vaccination of high risk groups such as older people and those with comorbidities.

With events such as rallies, campaign parties, politicians visiting people’s homes, he said the large gatherings posed a huge threat to a spike in infections and could be deadly as most of the population were not yet vaccinated.  

“While the elections might pose less risks if held outside spaces, the events leading to this such as rallies pose risk of cluster outbreaks.”

He said the current regulations also disabled political parties from campaigning, a right given by the electoral commission laws.

With the voter registration dates postponed to 31 July and 01 August – six days after the level four lockdown expiry date – there would not be enough time for finalisation of political parties’ candidates due to regulations prohibiting large gatherings for appointment of candidates.

Moseneke said scientists warned that the uncertainty of the virus developing into new variants posed a threat to efficacy of vaccines at a time communities were showing signs of “Covid fatigue”.

He said should the IEC accept the recommendation to postpone the elections it would need to approach the electoral court speedily.

IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said the commission would urgently study the report and its recommendations before making the final decision “in days”.

Mashinini was proud that despite pressures, in just 61 days Moseneke and his team managed to conduct a “thorough, comprehensive, transparent and highly inclusive investigation into whether free and fair elections can be conducted under the current Covid-19 conditions”.

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