S.Africa mulls postponing local govt polls

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has announced that it will approach the court to postpone the local government polls, scheduled to be held on October 27, because of the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Commission notes the rational and central thesis of the report that community immunity through mass vaccination must be considered as a desirable step in the conduct of a safe, free and fair election in the republic,” Xinhua news agency quoted IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini as saying on Friday.

“The Commission will 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,” he added.

Mashinini said they will postpone upcoming voter registration weekend scheduled for July 31 and August 1 to a later date and ask the courts to grant the election date not later than February 2022.

“The Commission appeals for a spirit of calm, support and working together among all stakeholders, in the interest of stability and certainty on the one hand, and at the indispensable need for the preservation of constitutional electoral democracy in the Republic,” the IEC Chair added.

In response to the announcement, South Africa’s second-largest party in Parliament, Democratic Alliance (DA), said it doesn’t support the postponement.

“As the DA, we will be monitoring this process (to postpone the elections) very closely, because it has been our contention that the local government elections must go ahead to give South Africans an opportunity to elect the local leaders as per the Constitution,” the party’s spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said late on Friday.

The party, which started campaigning in May, will be studying the submission of the IEC to the court to specifically look at the mechanism that IEC seeks to use to postpone the election, the spokesperson added.

South Africa’s local government elections are held every five years and elect councillors of metropolitan, district and local municipalities.