Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, there’s a preeminent decision underway to postpone South Africa’s local government elections, which were plan to happen in October 2021.
But during the time of October, the elections were fulfilling the requirement of the current constitution. According to South Africa’s constitution, the local election must be complete in every five years within 90 days of municipal elections completion.
However, the issue arising here is that the constitution is not acceptable to postpone the elections beyond 90 days. And to solve this concern, the Constitutional Court interfered in this matter on the order of the electoral commission.
The electoral commission posted an inquiry to the Constitutional Court, which states that hosting the elections in free and fair is more unlikely as the current scenario is not safe for people. There are many health risks due to Covid- 19 pandemic so, the inquiry is recommending delaying the elections by four months but not more than Feb 2022.
Considerations by Inquiry
The inquiry finalized its decision after considering the presentation works of many interested parties.
According to Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, it’s better to maintain the social distancing to mitigate the risks. However, his personal opinion says that to hold back the elections until all citizens get the vaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Another consideration that came out is that lack of safety in public places can lead to fewer voters.
However, the political parties are rolling out with opposite views. The opposition party is willing to continue the elections. The Economic Freedom Fighters are eager to postpone it.
But in all these, the governing African National Congress’s changed its decision a lot. Initially, this party was not in favor of continuing the elections. But when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the election date, this party changed its decision, and now it’s in support.
The political parties mainly care about the campaign period, not just about the effect on voters after the postponement.
Mitigating the risks in South Africa
The purpose of the inquiry to the electoral commission was to mitigate the risks in February 2022. However, the recommendations revolve around two areas, the voting process and the campaign period.
For a better campaigning process, it is essential to follow up the health protocols in all voting activities.
The voting hours and the opportunities for the voters should be extended.
The voting times should be staggered in the alphabetical order of the surnames of the voters. The method of voting should be done electronically.
Although these all considerations can be in the actions by October, there will be no senseless postponement there.
Who counts: voters or parties?
The postponement of the local government elections shows a clear upcoming negative impact on South Africa’s democratic and constitutional tradition.
The vital aspect of the debate should not be the only aspect revolving all around. Political parties’ relationship with the citizens and voters’ preferences versus those of political parties should also be part of this.
But what seems to be here is that the voter’s opinions are senseless for everyone.
There’s very little interest in local government elections by South Africans. That’s why the quantity of voters is also lower than the national and provincial elections. Generally, it is 50% in the local election, but in 2016, it was almost 57%.
However, nobody knows about the postponement of the next local elections, but they know that the no. of voters is still less.