Eric Naki
Political Editor
2 minute read
24 Jun 2021
6:51 am

How Covid-19 or lockdown could affect government elections

Eric Naki

Three months to go and campaigns are yet to kick off...

Picture: Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke is expected to spin a dice as the major political parties make the upcoming local government elections a political battle point to win voters, even before the election campaign kicks off.

But with clear signs that the current levels of rising Covid-19 infections in Gauteng and the indication that the Western Cape could soon follow the same pattern, South African voters will have to gear themselves for a possible postponement of the October local government election.

The holding or the postponement of what appears to be a political battle point between the ANC and Democratic Alliance, that want the polls to proceed, as well as the Economic Freedom Fighters and all those who want a postponement.

Moseneke, who was probing whether the elections would be free and fair, is confronted with a dicey situation as his inquiry coincides with the pandemic threatening to engulf the country once more.

Infection figures have begun to exceed last year’s levels in Gauteng, where some are calling for the province to be placed under level 4 or 5 lockdown.

The country is at Moseneke’s mercy about the plight of the local polls, but the Electoral Commission of South Africa cannot afford to wait for the report before it makes preparations as it has to prepare anyway, whether the elections are postponed or not.

But the voters themselves can register or check their voter details while waiting for Moseneke’s investigation and his final report, to be submitted on 21 July.

The retired judge is facing several impediments which he should consider in his investigation. One being whether deaths and infections are worsening in the run-up to the release of his report.

He must also look at possible voter poor turnout at the polls directly as a result of the pandemic, additional to the rapid natural voter apathy that showed in the past several years.

Most importantly, he must consider whether political parties will be able to conduct their election campaigns freely and timeously to be able to garner the necessary support of voters towards October.

Three months prior to the polls, the campaigns are yet to kick off and none of the political parties have launched their manifestos. The time is against them and the pre-poll preparations are behind.

They have to produce the manifestos, print their media such as pamphlets, posters and T-shirts. The most challenging part is the holding of gatherings.

President Cyril Ramaphosa this month returned the country to level 3 with a 10pm to 4am curfew and dropped gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

Now read: EFF snubs ‘reckless and wasteful’ municipal elections launch