IEC seeks certainty as it approaches ConCourt to move upcoming local elections

The IEC wants the highest court in the land to grant a postponement of the polls from 27 October to the last Wednesday in February next year.

IEC chairperson Glen Mashini at a press briefing in Centurion, Johannesburg on 20 May 2021 on the upcoming local government elections. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said there was a need for certainty about preparations for the local government elections, which was why it had decided to approach the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis.

The IEC wants the highest court in the land to grant a postponement of the polls from 27 October to the last Wednesday in February next year.

This is in line with the recommendation of former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke who found that the COVID pandemic meant that it would not be possible for elections held in October to be free and fair, and that the IEC should approach a competent court for a postponement to no later than the end of February 2022.

IEC chairperson Glenn Mashinini said the commission and electoral stakeholders, such as political parties, were currently in an "untenable position".

They are preparing for local government elections to take place on 27 October, while awaiting the outcome of the IEC’s urgent application to the Constitutional Court for a postponement of the polls to February next year.

“We further seek the court to assume ongoing supervisory jurisdiction, requiring the commission to report to the court periodically on its progress in arranging constitutionally, compliant local government elections in February 2021 and also an order that councils remain competent until new councils are declared elected to avoid uncertainty about the legal status of the current municipal councils.”

The IEC said it would be filing court papers on Wednesday afternoon.

If the Constitutional Court declines the IEC’s request for a postponement then it seems the polls will go ahead on 27 October.

But Constitutional Law Professor Pierre De Vos said there was no easy way for this to happen in terms of the Constitution.

That's because the Constitution is very clear that elections must be held every five years and they must be free and fair

“If they’re going to manage this, they might say, ‘well we have to work together, and together means the one section cannot operate because there cannot be a fair challenge.’”

De Vos said that was going to require proof from the IEC that they had done what they needed to.

“The difficulty there is that they would have to have evidence that it wasn’t the IEC or whoever who didn’t do their job, but that it is really near impossible to have free and fair election.”

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