ActionSA has noted the summary presentation of the Section 14(4) Report issued by Justice Moseneke following the Public Inquiry into Free and Fair Elections, within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, as initiated by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
ActionSA does not believe voting should proceed at all costs but rather it must be guided by the prevailing infection levels and the immunity levels of the South African people.
In the report, Justice Moseneke has done exactly what we urged this process not to do – characterising the right to life and the right to vote as being mutually exclusive.
The truth is that these rights have never been more inter-related as they are in the present time when South Africans must be able to hold government and political parties to account for their performance in responding to this pandemic.
Our Constitution envisions a state capable of holding safe, free and fair elections – as many other countries have. Despite this, we find ourselves in a position where the inaction of the IEC, and its failure to deliver a concrete plan for hosting elections, has ultimately resulted in the postponement of the Local Government Elections.
Rather than leading from the front, the IEC has allowed itself to be led by the vested interests of political parties, and not providing the leadership envisioned of a constitutional authority on elections.
The environment of the pandemic necessitated an electoral authority that studied the more than 75 General Elections that were held around the world last year and produce a best practice model of running safe and credible elections in a time of Covid-19. This needed to be communicated to political parties and the South African people with sufficient volume that people wishing to vote could do so with full confidence that the process could keep them safe and healthy. As this has not taken place, the outcome from Justice Moseneke is not surprising.
Our country suffers from an accountability crisis. South Africans have been failed by our political systems, and many South Africans are left with little more than their vote every five years with which to exercise accountability over those who represent them. A decision to delay the 2021 local government election takes place within the context of the mismanagement of the pandemic, the revelations of the State Capture Commission, and the ongoing collapse of service delivery.
The consequence of such a delay is the prolonged misgovernance by political parties and councils based on the votes of South Africans more than 5 five years ago. To say a lot has changed in that time would be an understatement.
While ActionSA is disappointed by the outcome of the report by Justice Moseneke, we maintain our original submission to the Moseneke process that a delayed election outcome was always likely given the failure of the IEC to fulfil its constitutional function.
ActionSA’s submission to the process requested Justice Moseneke to consider extending his terms of reference to make a finding about how the IEC may or may not have fulfilled its obligations with regard to the preparations for the 2021 local government elections. The absolution of the IEC in this respect, by Justice Moseneke, is perhaps the least substantiated component of the report.