The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has appointed former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to lead a process to decide whether the country can hold free and fair elections in the present circumstances.
Almost 80 countries and territories have postponed elections in the past 18 months due to concerns over the pandemic, while 118 countries have opted to proceed with elections.
With the local government elections due on 27 October 2021 and South Africa facing a third wave of Covid-19, there have been doubts if it would be safe to conduct the elections.
The government has previously banned all political gatherings in order to curb the spread of the virus.
The country is now under level 1 lockdown, with the national state of disaster extended to 15 June 2021.
Speaking at a briefing in Centurion, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said the commission was faced with the responsibility of finding a balance between protecting constitutional democracy and the lives of South Africans.
“Under the current unprecedented circumstances, we should not shy away from using every facility at our disposal to make sure we meet these obligations. Having a person of the calibre, reputation, experience and integrity of Justice Moseneke to provide an independent review and analysis can only serve to enhance the decision making of the commission,” Mashinini said.
“The commission wishes to appeal to all political parties to assist Justice Moseneke as much as possible in meeting the deliverables within the timelines that are available to us.”
Moseneke said as a former deputy chairperson of the IEC that conducted the first democratic elections in 1994, it was with a “keen sense of duty” he accepted the invitation from the IEC.
“The responses of democracies around the world show that there is no wrong or right approach to this nor can any decision be made in isolation from the particular circumstances and conditions prevalent within that country,” he said.
“While our Constitution is silent on how exactly we should deal with such circumstances, it does provide an overall guidance that all elections must be free and fair and as such, the key consideration can not only be whether the elections meet the timing prescriptions but also whether they meet the prescripts of freeness and fairness.”