South Africa

Independent Electoral Commission

Dikgang Moseneke to lead urgent review to determine if municipal elections can be free and fair

Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is charing the hearings into whether local government elections can be free and fair. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has been tasked by the Independent Electoral Commission with investigating whether conditions for 2021’s local government elections will be free and fair.

Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Glen Mashinini has announced an investigation will be conducted to review the conduciveness of free and fair elections, which are scheduled for Wednesday, 27 October.

Speaking at a virtual media briefing on Thursday, 20 May, Mashinini said Moseneke “will lead a process to review whether the current conditions are conducive or not to the holding of free and fair elections later this year”.

“More recently it has emerged that the various political parties are divided on whether the upcoming local government elections can be free and fair within the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” he explained.

Previously, the Inkatha Freedom Party called for a “one-off” postponement of the election due to the pandemic. As far back as October 2020, the Economic Freedom Fighters asked that the elections be postponed, instead syncing them with the national and provincial elections due in 2024. 

“Through this process Justice Moseneke will undertake an urgent review of all the relevant factors which have a bearing on the holding of free, fair and safe elections in October,” said Mashinini, adding that “these include the legal, sociopolitical, health, practical and any other relevant considerations”. 

Mashinini said that while the majority of political parties believed the elections should proceed, “some parties have raised concerns that restrictions on campaigning imposed by the national disaster regulations could undermine the freeness and fairness of the elections”. 

He also confirmed the preparations to host the elections are “at an advanced stage” and that the commission is satisfied that it is possible to conduct successful elections in the current pandemic circumstance. 

“The commission is also confident that the special Covid-19 protocols and measures to be put in place for the elections will provide adequate safeguards… these measures have been tested in over 150 by-elections conducted over the past six months,” he said. 

Moseneke said it was with a “keen sense of duty to support electoral democracy” in the country that he accepted the commission’s invitation to lead the process. 

He is no stranger to the IEC, having served as deputy chairperson of the commission when it conducted the 1994 elections. 

Moseneke said his team will hit the ground running and by 24 May an office will be set up to facilitate this process. The office would also engage with stakeholders, including political parties, health authorities and disaster management to “urgently” submit reports on their views around the issue. 

“We’re feeling very much on top of the situation,’ said Mashinini when asked by journalists how the commission was feeling about the upcoming elections and this investigation. From a technical viewpoint, the commission was ready for the elections, but Covid-19 was an unknown factor. “We’re approaching this process because of the seriousness of the situation,” he explained. 

The report is due to be handed in to the commission in July. DM

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