Debate over whether to host municipal elections intensifies
As the country prepares to change municipal government at the polls, some pundits and political parties are calling for postponing elections and related rallies over fears of the Covid-19 super-spreading events, while others say to stop would undermine democracy.
The Municipal Structures Act 1998 states that the term of municipal councils is five years and that there is no room for maneuver in South African law that would justify an extension of the term of such councils.
However, political analyst Erahim Fakir said that despite the absence of a law allowing a postponement, a proposal to postpone the elections for six to eight months that would be approved by Parliament and the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI ) could be a viable solution. .
“I think one can argue for a postponement, but it has to be done under strict conditions that clearly define what the plan would be and what the challenges are. Given the slow progress in immunization in the country, there is a case for an extension of the current duration from around six to eight months, ”he said.
“If there was a flood or if the country was at war or if there was a natural disaster in progress, the doctrine of necessity would be applied which would allow the postponement of the elections in the absence of provisions in the law.
“Parliament should agree to these conditions and, along with the IEC, go to court to grant a limited deferral outlining the plans in place.”
This week, the IEC appointed former Constitutional Court judge Dikgang Moseneke to lead an investigation to examine the feasibility of holding elections during a pandemic. As other countries around the world have held elections, questions around political rallies, registration weekend and even voting day becoming widespread events have raised opposing views from parties. politicians and experts.
Although President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the date of the elections on October 27, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had not yet announced it.
Professor Burtrum Fielding said that while he does not believe a delay is warranted, key questions should be what measures are in place that will minimize the spread of the virus.
“The question of whether to hold an election this year is not a yes or a no but a multidisciplinary question. And if there is to be a debate on whether or not (the elections) should continue, it should rather be how to minimize the spread during the election campaign. This is what happened in India and where 50,000 people showed up and these are the ideal situations for the super-spreader events, ”said Fielding.
“I don’t think (a postponement) can be justified, it’s more about how to find new ways to have elections, to minimize crowds, to reach people in other ways. If we are transporting people by bus or taxi, the risk in the bus or taxi is great of spread and cross contamination and that is why it is a difficult question. It depends on what factors we have to minimize the risk.
“The consultation is justified, we do not know at that time how many people will have been exposed or will have received the vaccine. I would say minimize the number of people who get together, something as simple as temperature tests for those attending events, even asymptomatic people.
UDM general secretary Bongani Msomi said his party believed local elections could not be free and fair if held under current conditions.
“Restrictions are still in place to curb the spread of the pandemic. This means that parties will not be able to campaign freely, for example visitors are not welcome in households, so what kind of elections can (be) conducted without door-to-door campaigns? Even large rallies are not allowed.
“The UDM therefore welcomes the investigation into whether the elections, if held as perceived, would be free and fair. If necessary, it would be good to go to the Constitutional Court. The safety of citizens must be the priority, ”Ms. Msomi said.
The EFF has publicly stated that it supports the postponement of elections until 2024 so that municipal elections can be merged with national and provincial elections.
Cope spokesman Dennis Bloem said: “We think it’s a very sober decision to have someone like former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke do this assessment, he’s a person of integrity. and very honest, anyone can trust him. We’re very comfortable with him there and will accept his recommendations anyway. “
Grant Haskin, of the African Christian Democratic Party, said his position was that the elections should take place on the proposed date.
“But if there were to be a postponement, it shouldn’t be later than February 2022 and only for obvious reasons which could very well include the challenges related to Covid-19 that are being projected, but these projections need to be legitimate, ”he said. .
“We cannot expect voters to be subjected to the same mismanagement and corruption and poor political leadership. It should not be postponed or joined in national elections. “
“The by-elections we have held from last November until last Wednesday have shown that they can and do work and we are confident that the Covid-19 interventions have helped and will help on a larger scale.”
This week, DA’s John Steenhuisen also called for the elections to continue as planned, saying that revising the election date would be in the interest of parties that were unprepared and without campaign operations during the pandemic.
“The IEC should not bow to the whims of these partisan politics issues. The constitutional right of every South African to vote should not be determined by the readiness of a party in any election season, ”said Steenhuisen.
Federal DA President Helen Zille, speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the party’s virtual ‘Time for Change’ rally, said: “We all know very well that the ANC and EFF are not ready for elections. and they will do anything, even abuse and falsely use the Covid crisis to try to postpone the elections. Now we have to stand up for the South African people to get their choice of government, ”Zille said.
She said if the election was postponed once it would be postponed again and that would set a fatal precedent.
“The abuse of Covid, to centralize all power, to bypass Parliament, to work by decree through command councils by which we are governed, even that name sounds like something of a communist state.
She said South Africans were being conned, adding that her party was the only party that saw through the ass and would stand up and fight for South Africans no matter what.