Centurion – The Commission is taking measures to ensure that it complies with the orders of the Constitutional Court relating to the conduct of municipal elections by 1 November 2021. Although the orders were handed down without a reasoned judgement at this stage, it is important that the Commission proceeds with deliberate speed to comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court in the fulfilment of its mandate, notwithstanding current circumstances.
The Commission is of the view that it must take all necessary measures to ensure an electoral process that is free and fair, striving for safety within the constraints occasioned by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission calls on all role-players, especially political parties, to cooperate to ensure that the election proceeds within a calm environment where voters can exercise their right to vote and make their choices without undue impediments.
In order to give impetus to the preparations of the elections, the Commission met over the weekend to assess whether a registration weekend is practical before the elections. Having considered and deliberated on the matter, the Commission has made a determination that a registration weekend is a necessity ahead of this general election. Therefore, a registration weekend is now scheduled for the weekend of 18 and 19 September 2021.
This registration weekend will offer all eligible citizens an opportunity to register or update their registration details. All the 23 151 voting stations will open at 08h00 until 17h00 on both days. The Commission urges young people, in particular, to take advantage of this opportunity to register and eventually vote.
The Commission also held a consultative meeting with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). In line with the orders of the Court, the Commission has advised the Minister that it will be proceeding with a registration weekend on 18 and 19 September. This means that the Minister will on 20 September 2021 proclaim the date of the election. This proclamation of the election date will cause the voters’ roll to be closed for purposes of the 2021 Municipal Elections.
The Commission has indicated its preference of the election date to the Minister who is now considering the matter. It is the Commission’s wish that the election date is announced soon to allow electoral stakeholders to prepare within the short time to 1 November.
In view of the fact that the voter registration process has been re-opened by the order of the Court, a number of amendments to the electoral timetable are necessary. This is permitted by the Constitutional Court’s order, which make clear that the Commission is entitled to “publish such amendments to the current timetable as may be reasonably necessary”.
This includes the need to set a new deadline for candidate nominations. The scheme of the Municipal Electoral Act is such that the voter registration deadline is intended to precede the candidate nomination deadline. For example, persons can only be nominated as candidates once registered on the voters’ roll and provided they are registered in the relevant segment concerned. It is therefore necessary to allow political parties and independent candidates an opportunity to nominate candidates after the registration weekend of 18-19 September 2021 has occurred and after the voters’ roll has closed.
A meeting of the National Party Liaison Commission was held earlier today. It is clear there are different interpretations among parties as to whether the order of the Constitutional Court permits the Commission to re-open nominations. The Commission has taken advice on the matter and is of the view that amending the timetable to re-open nominations is reasonably necessary in the circumstances.
There are currently 77 970 candidates of which 911 are independent.
Following the proclamation of the election date on 20 September 2021, the Commission will publish an amended election timetable which will provide truncated timelines. The truncated timeline is reasonably necessary to meet the outer deadline for the conduct of the 2021 Municipal Elections.
Furthermore, the Commission has acquired 40 000 Voter Management Devices which will be used for the first time over the registration weekend. These devices will, in most registration stations, be functioning online. This will facilitate the process of voter verification almost instantaneously. The mapping functionality on the device will facilitate the correct registration of voters in relation to the ward of ordinary residence. The expectation is that the registration data will be consolidated sooner than has hitherto been the case. This will allow for the inspection voters’ roll to be prepared and for objections to close on 23 September 2021.
The applications for special votes will also open 20 September 2021 and close on 4 October 2021. The use of special votes will take on heightened importance in this election because of the need to de-congest voting stations on Election Day.
The Commission assures South African citizens that it will spare no effort to deliver a credible process guided by the prescripts and electoral jurisprudence arising from our courts.