Following coronavirus pandemic third wave outbreak across the globe, indications have emerged that South Africa would be postponing her municipal elections to prevent community spread of the deadly virus.
To ensure legal process binding the postponement, the country’s Electoral Commission has apply to the Constitutional Court for the local elections to be postponed from October, after an inquiry recommended a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission Chair, Glen Mashinini, while briefing journalists on Wednesday said that all necessary documents had been prepared for the application, and a new date would be sought to hold the elections before the end of February — tentatively the last Wednesday of the month.
As stated, the municipal elections would test the electorate’s sentiment following the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest triggered by the jailing of former President, Jacob Zuma, after he failed to appear before an anti-corruption inquiry.
It was not immediately clear what impact a delay would have on the outcome of the elections. The governing African National Congress (ANC) is widely expected to win them though the unrest has highlighted frustration with its achievements.
The government, which is not due to face a parliamentary election until 2024, wants the municipal elections delayed. As a postponement can be sought from a court only if an election date has been finalised, the government said on Tuesday that the municipal elections would be on Oct. 27.
The last municipal elections were held in August 2016 and, according to South Africa’s constitution, voting should be held within 90 days of the expiry of the municipal councils’ five-year mandate.
But an inquiry established by the Electoral Commission concluded last month that it was “not reasonably possible or likely” that the municipal elections would be free and fair if they went ahead during the coronavirus pandemic.
South Africa accounts for over a third of COVID-19 cases and more than 40% of deaths from the disease in Africa. It has fully vaccinated 5% of its population.