The civil rights organisation AfriForum wrote to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), requesting that this year’s local elections not be postponed until after 2021. This follows the EFF’s request for the elections to be postponed until 2024.
Morné Mostert, Manager for Local Government Affairs at AfriForum, says that postponing the election will create logistical problems, while a constitutional amendment will also be required. “The IEC can therefore only move the election in terms of Schedule 21 of the Constitution. The Article determines that the postponement must be done in terms of other constitutional enactments and other legislation.
“The Constitution and the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act agree that the terms of office of municipal councils may not exceed five years. The Constitution will therefore have to be amended before the IEC is allowed to postpone the election until 2024.”
Dr Eugene Brink, Strategic Advisor vir Community Affairs at AfriForum, says there exists no urgent or sufficient proof for the election to be postponed yet. Despite COVID-19 causing disruptions, many things can still happen this year and it is unnecessary to take such important decision now. South Africa held many successful by-elections in the past year, and political parties can for the time being campaign and create awareness in ways other than physical gatherings. Anyhow, parties only start holding gatherings much closer to the elections, and no drastic decision should be taken on postponing the election yet.”
According to Brink, there is no wide-spread support for postponing the election. “Nothing seems to point to public support, and no other party but the EFF requested postponing the election. We do not know what the trajectory of the virus will be like in 2021, but it is simply too early to think about postponing the election. If circumstances deteriorate to such an extent, new measures should be considered – also steps short of postponing the election.”