Former deputy chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke, has recommended that the local government elections be postponed.
“We conclude that it’s not reasonably possible that the elections, to be held in October in 2021, will not be held in a free and fair manner as required by the provisions of the constitution and related legislation. The scheduled elections are likely to be free and fair if they were to be held not later than the end of the month of February 2022.”
Mosenke chaired the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) into ensuring free and fair local government elections are held during Covid-19.
Moseneke released a report on Tuesday based on the oral submissions which were initially presented by civil society groups, political organizations, government, and health experts said the findings of the report were not binding.
The IEC applauded Moseneke for finishing the report with his team a day before the deadline.
The commission said it took the decision to embark on the inquiry to find out whether the IEC should proceed with the elections or not.
Glen Mashinini, IEC chairperson, said:
This enquiry has been conducted under extreme timelines. Despite the pressures Justice Moseneke and team you were able to accept our request. In just 61-days justice Moseneke and Team have managed to compile an in-depth report and investigations into whether elections will be free and fair under Covid-19 In October.
Mashinini said the commission would study the report in-depth and further study the findings and recommendations.
A total determination based on the findings would be made by the IEC soon. The independent commission said it was aware the lives of people came first, which was very important.
Previously, the health department expressed concern around the local government elections having to take place in October later this year when presenting their oral submissions. The department said the country would not be ready by then as a result of the slow vaccination rate.
The department, Director-General of the National health Dr. Sandile Buthelezi was making submissions before the Moseneke Independent Electoral Committee (IEC) inquiry in free and fair elections during Covid-19.
Explaining his presentations before the inquiry, Buthelezi said: “The country is currently experiencing a high number of Covid-19 cases with high community transmission rates. The holding of elections could put members of the public at risk of contracting Covid-19 during one of the various activities such as.
“Physical voter registration. The voting process itself, where large numbers gather at polling stations and ques to complete their ballots and large political gatherings, especially in venues that are difficult to manage or limit (such as sports stadia),” he said.
The inquiry chaired heard that the lives of voters would only be protected during the pandemic if the country reached herd immunity, which required at least 40 million of the country’s population to be vaccinated. The department said this target could only be possible by February 2022.
Buthelezi however told the inquiry that only 16.6 million of the country’s population would be vaccinated by October.
The IEC appointed Moseneke to prepare a report in terms of Section 14(4) of the Electoral Commission Act. The purpose of the inquiry was to make findings and recommendations on whether the IEC would be able to ensure a free and fair 2021 LGE.