Virus cloaks 2021 local government elections in uncertainty

Voting. Picture: Neil McCartney

The agreed date to hand over the wards to the IEC was August, but this is not feasible anymore.

At this stage, it is still unclear whether the Covid-19 pandemic will delay next year’s local government elections, but one of the steps usually taken before the elections is already behind schedule.

The CEO of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), Sy Mamabolo, told the portfolio committee on home affairs on Monday that, before every local government election, the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) goes through the process of evaluating the potential demarcation and re-demarcation of ward boundaries.

He said the board started with this process in January, but it is not done yet.

“Due to Covid-19, they have not yet concluded the public consultation process,” Mamabolo said.

He said they had completed four of the nine provinces.

Not feasible

The agreed date to hand over the wards to the IEC was August, but this is not feasible anymore.

After MPs asked whether the election will be delayed, they heard the IEC is “considering the issue”, with the delay by the MDB likely to have an impact on when the election will take place.

This is not the only impact the pandemic has had on the IEC.

“As an institution, we are not immune,” Mamabolo said.

The organisation has also consulted with electoral stakeholders about postponing 37 by-elections for 120 days.

The IEC has deployed a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) to enable staff to work remotely, with about 400 of its about 900 staff members already connected. They are in the process of procuring more laptops to allow more staff to work from home.

The organisation is also taking further prescribed steps to return to its operations.

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