Independent Electoral Commission places cart before the horse

ActionSA has noted the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) appointment of former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, to lead a process to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on conditions conducive for the holding of free and fair elections later this year.

We acknowledge the level of human and economic suffering arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and appreciate that IEC’s mandate to hold free, fair and credible elections now includes a precondition for the elections to also be safe. This cannot be overstated because the credibility of the elections will depend, in part, on voter turnout arising from confidence in the IEC’s measures to keep South Africans safe. 

This said, we are concerned that the present handling of the election process seems to place the cart before the horse.

In engagements between the IEC and political parties represented in the National Political Party Liaison Committee, we recorded our concern that it appeared that political parties were leading the IEC in the consideration of options to hold elections that can be free, fair, credible as well as safe in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is deeply concerning that the IEC has not presented its own comprehensive measures that would result in elections being held safely and for those measures to be interrogated by political parties and the public. Having such scrutiny of the IEC’s plans is critical to assuring South Africans that they can vote safely. This is essential to ensure that no single South African voter is disenfranchised because of an avoidable lack of confidence in the IEC’s ability to implement a clear plan for safe local government elections.

Under the present circumstances, it is important to note that the National Party Liaison Committee meeting, which was scheduled for this morning at 11h00, was cancelled at the last minute. This only serves to raise concerns rather than allay them.

Today’s announcement by the IEC is premature as we believe several concerns have yet to be addressed by the Commission. These include:

  • How has the IEC benchmarked its safety measures against those used by the 75 countries that held general elections last year;
  • what best practices have emerged from these general elections and from our by-elections which have taken place since November last year;
  • Which of these measures will the IEC implement; and 
  • what is their readiness to implement these safety measures?

In our consultations with the IEC, we have already indicated several other steps that may be taken to increase the probability of elections taking place safely: 

  • Having special voting days to allow South Africans who are over the age of 60 or suffer from co-morbidities to cast their votes prior to the main election day; 
  • Extending the main election day to take place over 2 days to reduce the number of people voting at any given point in time; and 
  • Increasing the allocation of public election broadcasts to contesting political parties, including unrepresented parties, to compensate for limitations on campaigns that will continue through the election campaign. 

As an organisation committed to the Constitutional rule of law, we believe that any decision to postpone or delay elections would be an assault on the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa; ActionSA would actively oppose any such move. 

The people of South Africa are desperate to have a political change that allows them to lead dignified lives. ActionSA stands ready to provide an alternative to the broken political system that has failed South Africans. 

We look forward to contesting the Local Government Elections later this year, where the residents will have the power to bring about the change they so deeply desire.