The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has strongly denied throwing the African National Congress (ANC) a lifeline by reopening the process of submitting candidates for the local government elections.
The ANC failed to submit lists of its candidates in more than 90 municipalities before the deadline, which could have cost it dearly at the polls.
The IEC held a briefing on Monday to outline its way forward following Friday’s Constitutional Court ruling, which ordered it to set a new date for voter registration and amend the election timetable as may be reasonably necessary.
The Constitutional Court also ordered elections should be held between 27 October and 1 November.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be launching legal action against the commission’s decision to reopen the registration for candidates.
The party’s Helen Zille on Tuesday said the ANC “wormed its way around the rules and the Constitution”.
“We want a fair process in which rules apply to everybody fairly. In the past, the NFP missed the entire 2016 election because they missed a deadline, the IFP missed the 2011 election in a number of wards and municipalities because they miss a deadline. Suddenly when the ANC misses a deadline, a mechanism has to be found that controls our Constitution, that manipulates the process, and that we say is not acceptable.”
But the IEC’s Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Masego Sheburi said no party was benefiting unfairly by amending the election timetable.
“People who recently attained the age of majority who register as voters, and who intended to be candidate, if the candidate nomination process is not reopened, those persons will not be able to enjoy their Section 19 constitutional rights to stand for public office,” Sheburi said.
However, the Institute for Election Management Services’ Terry Tselane disagrees: “No, no, no, he [Sheburi] is wrong. Being registered as a voter does not qualify you as a candidate, and that is important. To qualify as a candidate, you must meet the requirements of Section 14 and Section 17 of the Municipal Electoral Act.”
The Inkatha Freedom Party has also expressed its intention to approach the courts over the IEC’s decision.
At the same time, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution’s Dan Mafora on Monday said the political parties could approach the Electoral Court to argue that opening up the process when there was a deadline that they met and the ANC missed, would unfairly prejudice them.
“Failure to adhere to that timetable would’ve meant, for anyone, that they would be disqualified but now that the IEC is opening this up, that presents an unfair advantage to parties that did not abide by the timetable.”
The IEC has defended the legal advice it relied on to come to the decision, saying it was solid.
However, Mafora said it would have been ideal for the commission to share some of the details, even though they were not obliged to do so.
“They should’ve expressed some of the thinking or the reasons behind the decision to say, we’ve considered 1, 2, 3 and we’re going to do it for these reasons.”
The commission has also appealed to parties – including those challenging its plans – to be cognisant of the time pressures it faces.
Voter registration will be held on 18 and 19 September, after which the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will proclaim the election date.