SA will finally have by-elections across the country on November 11, after months of being unable to go to the polls due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By-elections, which should have been held in March, have been postponed by a court order as a result of SA’s lockdown but will be held in all nine provinces in November. 

In a statement released on Friday, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said it plans to clear the backlog on that day. 

The by-elections will be the first real test as to how voters will react to political parties after the lockdown. The period has been busy politically, especially for SA’s three largest parties.

The ANC will be judged on its response to the pandemic, as well as the raft of allegations of corruption that have arisen during the lockdown. The DA has taken crucial policy decisions and will, by then, have elected a new leader. The EFF has allegedly incited violence at its protests against a racist advertisement.    

The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in SA has, since March, prohibited large gatherings, including for political purposes. SA will, however, move to the least restrictive phase of the lockdown at midnight on Sunday September 20, which allows for political gatherings, and therefore opens up the ability to physically campaign for votes and interact with voters in groups.

The concern was that elections would not be free and fair if this was not possible. 

The IEC said “the scheduling of by-elections in 96 wards in 56 municipalities follows the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country is to move to alert level 1, which will include the lifting of restrictions on political activities”. 

The scheduling of the by-elections also follows consultations with the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, as well as represented political parties via a special national party liaison committee meeting held on Thursday.

The IEC said the by-elections will be held under strict Covid-19 protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of voters, election staff, party agents, observers and other stakeholders.

The IEC said the measures put in place will allow for free and fair elections.

“The decision by the commission to approach the Electoral Court for postponements of by-elections since March was not taken lightly,” IEC chair Glen Mashinini said. “But given the risk to human life and restriction of political activity, the commission had no choice but to act responsibly and postpone the by-elections. Now that circumstances have improved, we are ready to give voters their political voice back.”



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