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IEC says elections must be free and fair if they go ahead

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
The IEC has been under fire by those pushing for election postponements.
The IEC has been under fire by those pushing for election postponements.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The IEC has  denied that it was hell-bent on  holding  the pending local government elections at all costs as it has been accused of by those pushing for their postponement.

Speaking at the resumption of the inquiry set up to probe the feasibility of free and fair elections during the pandemic, led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo it was not its position that the elections had to be pushed through at all costs.

Political parties opposed to the holding of October 27 elections, including the EFF and the IFP, have slammed the commission for making preparations to hold the elections while there had been no time for political campaigning due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“That is not the position of the IEC. The position of the IEC is that it had to technically prepare for the conduct of an election should such an election be lawfully called. By technical preparation we mean procuring voting stations, training staff who will run the electoral process and preparing arrangements for candidate nominations,” Mamabolo said.

The inquiry is aimed at probing whether or not the IEC will be able to conduct and deliver free and fair local government elections in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mamabolo said the commission was compelled to deliver regular elections by the constitution and that the setting up of the inquiry was also aimed at ensuring that the upcoming elections would be free and fair if they go ahead.

“The commission has thus not made a decision yet as to whether these elections are likely to be free and fair. We are eagerly awaiting the final report,” he said.

While the government has announced the election date, it is yet be formally gazetted, pending the inquiry's report.

Mamabolo said it would be a hollow exercise to hold elections if they would not be free and fair.

The inquiry had already received numerous submissions from stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations, government, election monitoring bodies and health experts.

While the ANC and the DA remain adamant that the elections have to go ahead, the EFF and IFP are the most vocal opponents to the holding of  elections, due to restrictions on political gatherings, as they say the outcome will be undemocratic as their constituencies would not be sufficiently reached through virtual means of campaigning due to their socioeconomic disadvantages.

Moseneke said his inquiry had also received about 4,000 submissions from individual South Africans who expressed different views about whether the pending elections would be free if they go ahead.

“We are blessed with all of these views which are varied,” Moseneke said.

Moseneke said the inquiry had invited health scientists “to help us understand where we are and help us project the disease through to October and also tell us more about issues around vaccination and at what point are we likely to reach population immunity”.

The inquiry is expected to table the report on July 21 after which the IEC will declare if the elections would  go ahead or the date extended.

Mamabolo said there was no binary choice between timeously holding the upcoming elections and ensuring that they were free and fair.

“The constitutional impulse is for both to be met so the demands on the commission are in respect of both constitutional imperatives,” he said.

Mamabolo said the IEC was considering postponing the election registration weekend scheduled for July 17 due to the imposed stricter lockdown regulations which could be extended beyond the current two-week period ending on July 11.

The inquiry continues.

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