South African Electoral Commission to approach Electoral Court on deferral

The Electoral Commission chairperson, Glen Mashinini, says the Commission is going to approach the Electoral Court to seek a just and equitable order for the deferral of the municipal elections to a date not later than February 2022.

“Until a court of competent jurisdiction has determined the application for deferral, all other planned electoral activities will proceed,” Mashinini said on Friday at a media briefing.

Mashinini said the Electoral Commission has carefully considered and resolved to adopt the final report of the ‘Inquiry into Ensuring Free and Fair Elections during COVID-19’ by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

“As part of the way forward, the Commission will also consult with key stakeholders regarding the implications of the report,” Mashinini said.

Mashinini said the Commission accepts the rationale and the central thesis of the report, that greater immunity through mass vaccination is a desirable precondition for a safe, free and fair election to be realised.

Last week, the Electoral Commission received the final report of the Inquiry into Ensuring Free and Fair Elections during COVID-19 from Moseneke.

The report found that it was not reasonably possible or likely that the Local Government Elections, scheduled for October 2021, would be free and fair, and recommended that the Electoral Commission approach a court of competent jurisdiction to seek a just and equitable order for the deferral of the elections to a date not later than February 2022.

Mashinini said consultation will be sought with Parliament, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and National Treasury regarding the financial implications of the recommendations embodied in the report.

“In so far as the recommendations pertain, the Commission will adjust implementation to accord with current legal prescripts and financial means. Where there are substantial financial implications, National Treasury will be approached for additional funding,” Mashinini said.

Mashinini thanked the Moseneke Inquiry, saying it has greatly assisted in airing all the various views of political parties, civil society organisations, the public, media. and health and medical experts around this complex issue.

Mashinini said the new dates for the voter registration weekend will be announced in due course.

The Commission therefore resolved to urgently brief Senior Counsel to launch an application in a court of competent jurisdiction to seek judicial authorisation to conduct the election outside of the constitutionally prescribed time periods, and immediately postpone the upcoming voter registration weekend, scheduled for 31 July and 1 August, to a later date.

“This decision is grounded on health concerns, the current Adjusted Level 4 restrictions and the epidemiological projections… Furthermore, the current persisting high levels of COVID-19 infections and mortality in the country are matters considered for this decision to defer the voter registration weekend,” Mashinini said.

He reminded all eligible voters that the online registration facility launched recently will continue to provide a safe, convenient and easy way to register as a voter and to update existing registration details.

Since its launch on 14 July, more than 10 367 voters have already successfully used the system to register or change registration details on https://registertovote.elections.org.za. – SAnews

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