The jury is out on whether November 1 will be declared as an official public holiday to allow South Africans to head to the polls. Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Wednesday announced that local government elections will be held on this day adding that President Cyril Ramaphosa would still have to consult with the Cabinet before declaring the day a national holiday.
According to Dlamini Zuma, the government could have chosen the originally proclaimed date of October 27 for the elections but indicated that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) had highlighted that it would need as much time as possible to prepare for the municipal polls.
“These elections are important in advancing our young democracy. They mark the 21st anniversary since the establishment of a democratic local government system in our country. This sphere of government remains the hope of our people as the sphere closest to them and is in the coal face of service delivery,” Dlamini Zuma said.
The minister also affirmed to abide by the Constitutional Court decision to set aside the election proclamation she had previously made. The Constitutional Court ordered the IEC to hold local government elections on any day between October 27 and November 1 this year. The ConCourt dismissed the urgent application by the IEC seeking to postpone the elections to next year.
Instead, it ruled that the commission must hold a special voter registration weekend.
In complying with the court order, the IEC maintained that a physical registration weekend was a necessity and that it had scheduled a voter registration for the weekend of September 18 and 19.
The IEC also announced that it would be “reasonably necessary” to amend the timetable and to reopen candidate registrations – a decision that has since been challenged by the DA in the ConCourt. Dlamini Zuma said she could not comment on the court bid as the matter was sub judice since she was also cited as a respondent.
The voter registration weekend would offer all eligible citizens an opportunity to register or update their registration details. All 23 151 voting stations will open from 8 am to 5 pm on both days.
Earlier this week, Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo said the commission would be “technically ready” to deliver on voter registration weekend, as all logistical items – including Covid-19 personal protective equipment – were stored in warehouses and ready for use.
He also indicated that the commission would be able to secure voting stations to print ballot papers, train staff and provide for all other requisites logistical material. But Dlamini Zuma cautioned candidates and voters that the country was still in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
“Fellow South Africans, let me also caution as I stated in the beginning that we are going to hold the elections during a pandemic that continues to ravage the whole world. We, therefore, urge everyone to still exercise caution and observe protocols and regulations as we go to register, campaign and vote,” she said.