The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is set to resume by-elections, and plans to clear the backlog of all outstanding polls on 11 November 2020.
In a statement issued on Friday, the commission said the scheduling of by-elections follows consultations with Cogta Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as well as represented political parties via a special National Party Liaison Committee meeting held on Thursday.
“By-elections have not been held since March 2020 following the declaration of a National State of Disaster and the imposition of the lockdown restrictions intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” it said.
“Since then, 96 ward vacancies in 56 municipalities have occurred, including two dissolved councils in the Northern Cape where PR candidates must also be elected (9 PR seats in Phokwane and 3 PR seats in Renosterberg). To clear the backlog, the Electoral Commission plans to hold all vacant ward by-elections simultaneously on 11 November 2020.”
The by-elections are scheduled in all nine provinces across 461 voting districts. They will be held under new Covid-19 protocols.
“These include implementing strict social distancing practices outside and inside voting stations along with the use of hand sanitisers as voters enter and exit the voting station.
“Voters, election staff and all those entering the voting station will be required to wear a mask at all times.”
The commission has also encouraged voters to bring their own pens to mark their ballot papers, but added that pens will be provided and sanitised after use.
Meanwhile, chairperson of the Electoral Commission Glen Mashinini said the decision by the commission to approach the Electoral Court for postponements of by-elections since March was not taken lightly.
“But given the risk to human life and restriction of political activity the Commission had no choice but to act responsibly and postpone the by-elections. Now that circumstances have improved, we are ready to give voters their political voice back.”
Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo said the reduction in the Alert level and lifting of restrictions on political activities provided a window for the commission to clear the backlog of by-elections ahead of next year’s scheduled municipal elections.
“Ward council vacancies are not ordinarily filled during the final six months leading to Municipal Elections.
“South Africa will continue to hold by-elections for all the wards that become vacant until May 2021. However, holding all outstanding by-elections together on one day will help the Electoral Commission and political parties to focus their attention and energies on one day and to clear the backlog in one go,” Mamabolo said.
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