Postponing elections would be a constitutional ‘assault’, parties tell Moseneke
Health experts have advised against holding the October elections, but parties tell hearing poll should go ahead
A postponement of October’s local government elections would be an assault on the constitution and was a move ActionSA would actively oppose, the party’s national chair, Michael Beaumont, said on Wednesday.
He made the submission before the Moseneke inquiry, which is looking into the feasibility of holding free and fair elections under Covid-19 conditions later in 2021. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) appointed retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke as an arbitrator in the decision.
Health experts addressing the inquiry have poured cold water on the holding of elections, warning of a possible fourth wave of infections amid the slow rollout of vaccinations.
South Africans were desperate for political change that allowed them to lead dignified lives, Beaumont said.
The party was aware of scientific findings on Covid-19, but expressed confidence in SA’s ability to hold free and fair elections.
“We are confident that with a reduction in infection rates, adequate planning and proper public communication on plans, elections can be held safely.
“As an organisation committed to the constitutional rule of law, we believe that any decision to postpone or delay elections would be an assault on the constitution. ActionSA would actively oppose any such move,” Beaumont said.
The One SA Movement, led by Mmusi Maimane, expressed similar sentiments, arguing that there were no guarantees that the situation would have improved by a later date.
“We are dealing with one variant at this point. Who knows that in future we are not going to have other variants, another virus or disease? So if we do not learn the lessons now and put the adequate mechanisms in place now, we could always face a global challenge to hold elections, and SA will be vulnerable in this regard.
“I submit to you, justice, that elections must go ahead now,” Maimane said.
He added that there was a possibility to maintain the right to life if the IEC planned adequately and implemented new mechanisms under which to hold elections. It was possible that the pandemic would continue for a long time and SA was nowhere near achieving herd immunity, he said.
African Content Movement (ACM) leader Hlaudi Motsoeneng gave an opposing submission, slamming those pushing for elections to go ahead.
“I don't think the majority of our people want to vote. It’s only politicians who are power-hungry. They think that they will take over because the ANC is having problems.
“We all want to take over, but what is important is the lives of our people,” he said.
Moseneke asked him to comment on what the constitution stipulated in terms of the right to vote. Motsoeneng said the constitution could be amended because the country found itself in a dire position.
“We need to focus on the lives of our people. The constitution is not there to kill people; it is there to protect people. We are in control of the constitution, it is written by us, but we are not in control of the lives of people.”
The ACM leader cautioned Moseneke about succumbing to pressure from political organisations.
“In you, I believe that you will lead us in the right direction, but don’t listen to political parties. How do you listen to Hlaudi or Ramaphosa or Malema, whoever? We are not specialists, we are human beings. We must be led by medical professionals and people who specialise in the constitution, like yourself,” he argued.
Moseneke expressed his gratitude for all the views made before him, describing them as a vibrant contestation of SA’s democratic practice.
The hearings are ongoing.
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