The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) has suspended its remaining consultation meetings with communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consultations on the draft wards are a critical part of the process in preparation for the 2021 local government elections. The board announced in January that a public consultation process would take place on the draft ward proposals from February to April in all SA’s provinces, and that the wards would be finalised by July before being handed over to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) in August.    

The MDB said on Tuesday that the decision was in line with Ramaphosa’s directive on Sunday prohibiting the gathering of more than a 100 people at any given time.

Scheduled meetings from March 18 to April 9 have been suspended with immediate effect, the board aid.

Consultations are expected to resume from April 14. The board said members of the public were still encouraged to put forward written submissions by the end of April.

“It is our responsibility to take all necessary measures as a collective to curb the spread of the virus; hence, we are suspending all outstanding public sessions. We further encourage communities to learn more about the virus to protect themselves,” board chair Thabo Manyoni said.

While the virus has caused havoc across the globe, it has also resulted in the IEC approaching the electoral court urgently to postpone scheduled municipal by-elections. The affected by-elections were scheduled for May.

The most critical by-election expected to take place in 2020 would arguably be that of the Tshwane metro. The entire council was dissolved following months of political instability. Although the council’s dissolution is yet to kick in, the metro will have 90 days from the date of dissolution to hold new elections, according to the law.

On Monday, the IEC said in a statement that the decision to approach the court was part of a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as the election process involved “relative close physical contact” between officials and voters. This included the exchange of ballot papers and the inking of thumbs.

“At the end of the voting process, ballot papers must also be counted. Where an infected voter has handled a ballot, indications are that active viruses will last for at least 10 hours. This will be yet another opportunity for cross infection of officials conducting the counting process,” the IEC said on Monday.

The electoral court has yet to make a ruling on the application.


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