Ramaphosa says no to postponing October’s local government elections

President Cyril Ramaphosa

  • There is no determination of a postponement of the local government elections at this stage, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • Ramaphosa has called on political parties to trust the electoral commission’s investigation into the feasibility of this year’s polls.
  • On Thursday, Ramaphosa answered questions in the National Council of Provinces.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Constitution is the shock absorber that would help South Africa buffer whatever turbulence there might be in hosting the local government elections in October.

South Africans head to the polls in October to elect new mayors and ward councillors. Still, with the third wave of Covid-19 infections, many political parties have called on the government to postpone the elections.

During Thursday’s questions session in the National Council of Province, Ramaphosa appealed for calm as the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) investigates whether the elections would be free and fair under the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ | EFF calls for postponement of local government elections and suspends its political activities

In 20 May, the IEC announced that former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke would lead an inquiry, which would evaluate whether the current conditions would allow for free and fair elections.

The report was expected to be completed and handed to the IEC by 21 July.

In posing a follow-up question to Ramaphosa, DA MP Tim Brauteseth asked: “We have great respect for Judge Moseneke, but has he also considered the massive constitutional crisis looming if there is a determination to move the local government elections past the 90-day period [as set by the Constitution].”

READ | IEC is ‘ready’ as Ramaphosa announces election date

Ramaphosa said while the election date had been announced, it was yet to be proclaimed.

He said:

I fail to understand these questions. I am taken aback to hear that the honourable member is saying that the government is creating panic. I am not aware of this. I made an announcement that the election should go ahead and even set a date in October, which will be duly proclaimed by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. I need to know in what way are we creating a panic.

The EFF had been calling for a postponement of the elections due to the “risk that a nationwide election will pose on the lives of South Africans”.

The party previously said in a statement it hoped the review “is not another attempt to legitimise the premature and already standing decision not to postpone the elections”.

Ramaphosa said the government was dealing with the matter as carefully as they could.

“Out of great caution, the IEC has said they would like to establish an inquiry which will be led by Judge Mosekene to determine whether the elections can be held or considered to be free and fair in these conditions. Let us trust the prescripts of the Constitution. Let us trust the IEC to able to manage this process properly, and let us confirm our trust in Judge Mosekene,” Ramaphosa said.

READ HERE | Voting during a pandemic: IEC forges ahead with plans for local govt elections

For the first time since its establishment, the IEC was faced with the prospect of conducting elections in the midst of a global pandemic, Ramaphosa argued.

“The inquiry is expected to do three things – firstly, enquire into the conditions for free and fair elections; secondly, come up with findings following the enquiry; and thirdly, issue a report in which recommendations are set out concerning the likelihood that the IEC would be able to ensure that the forthcoming government elections will be free and fair,” he said.

Ramaphosa said there was no determination of a postponement at this stage, and no other date had been considered as an election date other than 27 October.

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