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DearSA applies to Concourt to prevent delay of local government elections

A public participation campaign by DearSA on postponing the elections elicited 8,000 responses, 63.3% of them against any delays.

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Public participation organisation DearSA has applied to enter the case brought by the Electoral Commission of SA to delay the local government elections beyond the Constitutionally designated date in October 2021.

The Commission asked the Concourt to delay the local government elections to no later than 28 February 2022 due to difficulties posed by the Covid pandemic, making it unlikely the elections will be free and fair.

IEC chair Vuma Mashinini relied on a report by Justice Moseneke that recommended a postponement of the elections. DearSA argues that the IEC can implement precautions derived from international data and experience to make voting and electioneering safe, without delay. The argument is premised on the difficulties of conducting free and fair elections during a pandemic.

DearSA facilitated a participation campaign responding to the IEC’s call for comment on the Moseneke Report and elicited almost 8,000 public responses, 63.3% of them against any delays.

Danie Eloff of Hurter Spies Attorneys says DearSA will make the following submissions in the Constitutional Court case regarding the postponement of the local government elections.

Firstly, that DearSA facilitated a public participation process where almost 8,000 South Africans had their voices heard regarding the proposed postponement of the elections. Some 63.3% of the respondents say they don’t believe the election should be postponed, while 27.8% supported postponement, and 8.9% were unsure. The DearSA campaign statistics are mentioned in the Electoral Commission report that recommended its current approach to the Concourt.

“DearSA will also argue that should the Court find that the elections should be postponed and Parliament be instructed to give effect to this postponement through new legislation or a constitutional amendment, that the legislative process requires a new formal public participation process,” says Eloff.

Secondly, DearSA will make submissions and provide a comparative analysis of how other countries approached elections during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is noteworthy that the United States is one of several countries to hold elections during the Covid pandemic. 

Thirdly, DearSA will submit that there is no guarantee that Covid-19 will not be a problem by the proposed election date in February 2022, given our slow rate of vaccinations or the emergence of another Covid variant. 

“The Concourt needs to provide long term safeguards regarding the postponement of elections. Moreover, many studies predict that the world will face these sorts of pandemics more often and the Court’s guidance for the longer term is therefore necessary,” says Eloff.

DearSA campaign director, Rob Hutchinson, says by asking for a postponement of the local government elections, The IEC is in effect asking the Court to suspend democracy. 

“The Concourt is being asked to rule on something which is beyond its powers. It cannot suspend democracy by waiving the Constitution because of a pandemic for any period. Who’s to say we don’t have another Covid variant in February next year and are forced to delay the elections again. We are obligated to join the Court proceedings as amicus (friend) in light of the large majority of DearSA participants arguing that we cannot delay the elections. We have to resolve these issues now.”

It is also noteworthy that numerous other organisations have likewise applied to join the court proceedings either as intervening parties or amicus. All parties are opposing the IEC’s application to delay elections.

Apart from DearSA, the following organisations have signalled their intention to join the proceedings:

    1. The IFP as an intervening party.
    2. F4SD as an intervening party.
    3. MIND as an intervening party.
    4. DA as an intervening party.
    5. ANC as an intervening party.
    6. ATM as an intervening party.
    7. CASAC as amicus.
    8. IRR as amicus.
    9. AfriForum as amicus.

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