President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs), and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) are facing a legal challenge to force the easing of restrictions on gatherings ahead of the local government elections.
The Economic Freedom Fighters is pushing Ramaphosa, Dlamini Zuma and the NCCC to relax restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend gatherings, to enable political parties to conclude nominations for candidate councillors.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has set August 23 as the deadline for nominations to be submitted ahead of the local government elections. The commission released the list of the designated 257 district and local offices for the submission of candidate nomination documents for the municipal polls.
In addition to supporting the IEC’s bid to have the elections postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EFF wants the apex court to order Ramaphosa, Dlamini Zuma and NCCC to amend the current lockdown regulations or promulgate new Disaster Management Act regulations to allow political gatherings for candidate nomination meetings that will be fully attended by eligible members.
“Such amendments or promulgation would still be subject to other regulatory prescripts, such as social distancing and wearing of masks and any other matters that may be decided by the relevant parties at their discretion,” said EFF secretary-general Marshall Dlamini promised in the party’s application to intervene in the IEC’s application to postpone the elections until February next year.
The EFF believes that should regulations be changed, political parties will be able to compile their nomination lists in a democratic manner, or they will be forced to undertake an undemocratic internal process, which could see them putting forward candidates not chosen by the voters they are supposed to represent.
Dlamini has also asked the Constitutional Court to direct the commission to extend the deadline for the submission of party nomination lists. Dlamini said that most of the EFF’s branches have more than 100 members and cannot gather without breaking the regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19.
He said EFF members were largely people with limited resources and access to electronic platforms.
“Absent such resources for each of its members, the branch general assemblies are a ‘virtual’ impossibility,” Dlamini said, adding that the meetings were protracted and required members to congregate.
The current regulations limit gatherings to 50 persons indoors or 100 in outdoor venues.
”The difficulty faced by the EFF, and as we understand it, by other political parties as well, is that the candidate nomination gatherings could not be held as a result. This renders it impossible to provide the IEC with the nomination lists, certainly under the prevailing circumstances and the nomination list submission deadline set out in the election timetable,” reads Dlamini’s affidavit.
He continued: “The EFF is cognisant of the reality of Covid-19 and the difficulties the government and the IEC face in managing the pandemic and simultaneously continuing to perform their constitutional functions.”
The Constitutional Court will hear the IEC’s application on Friday.