Unlikely local govt elections will be postponed

FEBRUARY 27, 2016

A postponement of local government elections is not on the cards, officials said on Friday, dismissing speculation that the polls could be moved to next year.

Constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said there was a provision in the Constitution that stated the term of local government elections was five years and postponing it would mean going against the Constitution.

"The Constitutional Court cannot rewrite the Constitution ... I can't see that it has the power to postpone the elections; doing so would mean not complying with the Constitution, which it is required to uphold," De Vos said.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the commission was not considering  postponing local government elections. Concerns that the Independent Electoral Commission of SA might not be ready to hold free and fair elections later this year surfaced when the Electoral Court ordered it to postpone by-elections earlier this week because of issues with the voters' roll.

A group of independent candidates contesting by-elections in Tlokwe, in the North West, approached the Electoral Court on Tuesday to try to postpone the by-elections because of concerns with the voters' roll. The court ruled in their favour and ordered that six by-elections in Tlokwe be postponed for six weeks.
The IEC was ordered to provide all candidates contesting the by-election with a copy of the voters' roll including the addresses of all registered voters, where addresses were available. The commission postponed all by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, North West and Limpopo.
Earlier this week, Cabinet's Governance and Administration Cluster said the IEC remained a credible body that was merely facing administrative issues. Political parties have expressed concern about a postponement of the local government elections and have questioned the implications of a postponement.
Bapela said the IEC was consulting advisers and its legal team on the Electoral Court order and the Constitutional Court order. "We just want to be sure that we understand what should be done and then we will start external consultation processes."
De Vos said the Constitutional Court order was quite clear. It ordered that attempts would have to be made to verify the addresses of every person registered and, second, that every candidate contesting by-elections was entitled to the voters' roll with all the available addresses.
"Although the Constitutional Court did not order that the voters' roll ... had to be revisited, it was clear there was a problem and the IEC didn't seem to fix it or it was not ordered to fix it.
"The IEC followed the letter of the order but maybe not its spirit because it didn't take any steps to try to fix the problem," he said.
Bapela said the first voter registration weekend would be held next week. The IEC was working on ensuring that every South African who was registered had the correct, full address and that it was traceable. Leaders of the IEC met on Friday and will sit at the weekend to look at key processes.