DA: Postponing local elections would set terrible precedent

DA: Postponing local elections would set terrible precedent

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it plans to oppose the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) application to postpone the local government elections.

Helen Zille DA federal chairperson

This follows a report by retired Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke that recommended that the October 27 polls be postponed to February 2022.


The report found that the health risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic would come in the way of free and fair elections. 


But the official opposition party doesn’t believe this to be true.


“The deadline for our submission is today, and we have resolved to make it public because the matter is of vital national importance,” DA federal chairperson Helen Zille said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday. 


“The DA, as a political party contesting the election, is an interested and affected party and is therefore entitled to join the IEC’s application to the Constitutional Court. We do so in order to oppose the IEC’s request for a postponement of the election.”


Zille added the party’s submission shows scientific evidence in support of their position to hold elections later this year, as well as the logistical requirements to go ahead with elections in October. 


“In addition, we show that there are viable alternatives for the IEC, short of asking the court to amend the Constitution, to address the identified risks, and fix the identified shortcomings in their current preparations for an October election within the remaining time frames,” Zille added. 


“This applies particularly to voter registration, which is an indispensable element of holding a free and fair election in terms of the Constitution.”


The DA further believes the governing ANC’s bid to push elections back makes a mockery of the Constitution. 


“Unlike any other event, the timing of elections is set down in the founding provisions of the Constitution, which can only be changed by a constitutional amendment requiring a 75% super-majority in Parliament. 


“It is our carefully considered opinion that the ANC, knowing it could not get a 75% majority in Parliament, chose a different route.


“It would establish a terrible precedent if the Constitutional Court were to assume the power to change the Constitution, through bypassing the constitutionally prescribed mechanism of getting the requisite majority in Parliament. It would, at a stroke, undermine the supremacy of the Constitution, and make the Court itself supreme, giving a handful of judges the power to amend the Constitution at will,” said Zille. 


In its submission, the party makes some recommendations on holding successful campaigns and polls.


“Of course, it is more difficult to hold an election under Covid conditions. But it is the IEC’s duty to do so, as scores of countries have done during the Covid pandemic.


“From February 2020 to 21 July 2021, at least 128 countries and territories have decided to hold national or sub-national elections, despite concerns related to Covid, of which at least 107 have held national elections or referendums. 


“There is no evidence that elections cause a spike in infections, when proper protocols are applied. The two exceptions have been India and the United States, where it has been established that large rallies were super-spreaders. 


Last month, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gazetted the October 27 polls pending the IEC’s application to the apex court. 


The voters roll was then sealed. 


It’s unclear when the urgent application will be heard in court. 


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