Justice Dikgang Moseneke, former South Africa Deputy Chief concluded Tuesday his inquiry into ensuring free and fair elections during COVID-19 and suggested postponement of local elections. The final report on the findings of the inquiry was submitted to the Electoral Commission of South Africa. The Commission stated that it will urgently study the report and its recommendations before deciding the fate of the local government elections scheduled for 27 October, 2021.
The Electoral Commission had appointed Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke on 20 May to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the relevant legal, socio-political, health, practical and other considerations for the holding of free and fair elections pursuant to Section 14(4) of the Electoral Commission Act.
The report recommended the introduction of alternative modes of voting such as electronic voting, considering the advent of COVID-19 which makes it difficult for people to physically cast their votes. It also suggested amending the current legislation (Section 47 of the Municipal Electoral Act) to introduce the method of electronic voting.
The report stated that the elections should ideally be postponed to February 2022:
“Having considered all the submissions of stakeholders, applicable law, research on electoral practices during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the related science, we conclude that it is not reasonably possible or likely that the local government elections scheduled for the month of October 2021 will be held in a free and fair manner, as required by the peremptory provisions of the Constitution and related legislation. We find that the scheduled elections are likely to be free and fair if they were to be held not later than the end of February 2022. We have also made recommendations on how free, fair and safe elections may be held in February 2022.”
The Electoral Commission will now consult with key stakeholders including political parties and aims to make a final announcement within the next few days.