ConCourt dismisses IEC's application to postpone local govt elections

The apex court handed judgment down on Friday afternoon after the Independent Electoral Commission approached it last month in a bid to have the elections postponed.

FILE: A voter placing her marked ballots into the local and national ballot boxes on 8 May 2019. Picture: Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court on Friday dismissed the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) application to have the 27 October 2021 local government elections postponed to next year.

In a brief outline of the apex court’s majority decision, the order states that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's proclamation of 27 October as the election date is unconstitutional, invalid and set aside. This opens the court's ruling that the elections should be held between 27 October and 1 November 2021.

The court instructed the IEC to determine within three days of Friday's order whether it was possible to hold a voter registration weekend for new voters and to allow registered voters to change their particulars on the roll.

The commission was ordered to notify Dlamini-Zuma and to publicly announce its determination as soon as possible.

The order further reads that Dlamini-Zuma must proclaim the date of the election immediately after the voter registration weekend.

The timetable, which has already been outlined and implemented by the IEC, remains applicable as per the court’s decision.

However, the Constitutional Court said the commission must publish any amendments to the timetable as may be reasonably necessary.

The African National Congress and the United Democratic Movement complained that there were systems glitches and unrealistic timelines that prevented them from registering their ideal candidates for the polls.

Meanwhile, the IEC always maintained that it made all necessary preparations for the elections.

Last month, the Constitutional Court questioned why the IEC did not rather approached Parliament to allow it to postpone the local government elections.

Advocate Wim Trengove, representing the IEC, told the Constitutional Court that it would be simply impossible to hold free and fair elections before November.

“The parties, particularly the less endowed parties, will not have proper opportunity to campaign for the election. So yes, an election by 1 November is physically possible, but it won’t be a free and fair elections.”

But Justice Leona Theron asked Trengove why the IEC had not approached Parliament, saying the commission was indirectly asking the court to amendment the Constitution.

“My concern is that the commission is clothing what it wants us to do. And it seems to me, in effect and in substance, the commission is asking this court to amend the Constitution, but it’s not doing so directly.”

The ANC also made a submission supporting a postponement to April.

Last week, the IEC's Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo said: "In our papers, we requested the ConCourt to look at a time not beyond the 21st of August. We obviously can't impose on them. The acting Chief Justice has indicated that they will not take a day longer than is necessary in delivering the judgment."

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