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DA says elections must go ahead, UDM warns it's a superspreader recipe

Political parties have opposing views on holding elections during a pandemic. File photo.
Political parties have opposing views on holding elections during a pandemic. File photo.
Image: Reuters

The DA has described calls for local government elections to be postponed as irresponsible and emotional statements.

Party head of elections Werner Horn shared these sentiments at the Moseneke inquiry on Friday. Stakeholders are giving oral and written submissions at the inquiry on the feasibility of holding free and fair elections under Covid-19 conditions. 

The DA became the latest political party after ActionSA to say elections must go ahead, despite overwhelming evidence before the inquiry that the country could be into the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections by then and population immunity would not have been achieved. 

“That government’s vaccination programme is now finally showing some progress, also works against the possibility of an 'unmanageable spike' in infections, even though it is accepted that the number of people who will in all likelihood have been vaccinated by election day will not meet the threshold that will establish so-called 'herd immunity'.

“It is our strong submission that the protestations of political parties that local government elections should be postponed because it will lead to the infection and death of many South Africans are irresponsible and emotional statements which are not founded in any way on the analysis of these by-elections or the proposed protocol of the commission [for local government elections],” said Horn.

The opposition said while it was difficult to predict the trajectory of the pandemic, one thing was certain: “This pandemic is not going anywhere any time soon.”

Concerns about mass gatherings and political events were raised before the inquiry. Horn, however, said gatherings could not be used as a measure of whether elections would be fair.

“For now it is suffice to say we believe that total prohibition of mass gatherings will have to be in place from now until the elections,” he told the inquiry.  

“There is scientific evidence that gatherings are a no-no. It cannot be argued on a conceptual level that this prohibition can render elections not free and fair in the context of the health pandemic.” 

The opposition said the Electoral Commission (IEC) was capable of holding the elections, citing several by-elections held during the state of disaster though the IEC sought to halt a number of by-elections from proceeding.

“The by-elections have shown us that voter confidence is real,” added Horn.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa cautioned that if elections went ahead, they would lead to the mother of all superspreader events.  

“The UDM would propose that we can have elections next year about March, April 2022. The priority right now is to ensure that we secure the lives of South Africans,” he said. 

The national department of health on Thursday warned that the Delta variant, which had spread to most of SA's provinces, was vicious and transmitted easily. Holomisa echoed similar sentiments, saying infections would “spread like wildfire”.

While some health experts have said it would be relatively safe to forge ahead with elections after the vaccination of 40 million citizens, Holomisa said a postponement would benefit the government in terms of speeding along its vaccination programme. 

“The advantage of postponing the elections now is that we are giving the government enough time to speed up the vaccination programme. We are killing two birds with one stone.”