The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on Monday said, “it has taken advice” and it is of the “view that amending the timetable to re-open nominations is reasonably necessary in the circumstances”
Last week the African National Congress (ANC) gave up on its intention of requesting the Electoral Court to consider the reopening of registration of candidates. The ANC had failed to register about 100 candidates before the initial deadline came and went.
The IEC on Monday opened an opportunity for the ANC to fix the anomaly.
It said the move to reopen the registration of candidates was part of its efforts to comply with Friday’s Constitutional Court ruling, which ordered that local government elections must not be delayed.
The Constitutional Court ordered the IEC to hold the elections as stipulated by the law from 27 October to 1 November.
It also set out several conditions relating to the order including the opening of a weekend of voter registration before the polls.
“In line with the orders of the court, the commission [IEC] has advised the minister that it will be proceeding with a registration weekend on 18 and 19 September,” said the IEC.
“This means that the minister will on 20 September 2021 proclaim the date of the election.”
However, there was a dispute regarding the interpretation of the order that resulted in the IEC re-opening the candidate registration – much to the chagrin of some parties.
“In view of the fact that the voter registration process has been re-opened by the order of the court, a number of amendments to the electoral timetable are necessary,” said the IEC.
The IEC said it was entitled to “publish such amendments to the current timetable as may be reasonably necessary”.
The IEC added: “This includes the need to set a new deadline for candidate nominations.
“It is therefore necessary to allow political parties and independent candidates an opportunity to nominate candidates after the registration weekend of 18-19 September 2021 has occurred and after the voters’ roll has closed.”
The IEC said a meeting of the National Party Liaison Commission was held earlier on Monday.
“It is clear there are different interpretations among parties as to whether the order of the Constitutional Court permits the commission to re-open nominations,” said the IEC.
The IEC said it has taken advice on the matter and is of the view that amending the timetable to re-open nominations is reasonably necessary in the circumstances.
Reacting to the decision to reopen the registration of candidates, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said it “has briefed its lawyers to explore all available legal avenues to oppose the decision by the IEC to reopen its candidate registration process”.
A statement attributed to Helen Zille, DA Federal Council chairperson, said: “The IEC today announced its revised election timetable and a registration weekend after the Constitutional Court dismissed its application to have the Local Government Elections postponed until next year.
“Instead, the Court granted a five-day delay.
“This five-day window has given the IEC an excuse to reopen the candidate registration process to allow the ANC to register the candidates where it failed to do so by the deadline of 23 August in 93 municipalities.
“While the Constitutional Court judgment underscored the importance of a voter registration period, which we welcome, we strongly object to the use of the window to re-open candidate registration.”
There are currently 77 970 candidates of which 911 are independent.
The United Democratic Movement said it welcomed the move to reopen candidate registration.
Auntie Pat’s GOOD party said it welcomes the IEC’s responses to the Constitutional Court.
“The spirit and requirement of democracy is to have free and fair elections where the outcome represents the will of the voters,” said the GOOD party.
“True constitutionalists would put this hard-fought-for right above any party political opportunity that arises out of capturing errors or negligent omissions.”
Last week the Economic Freedom Fighters said they were opposed to the IEC reopening the registration of candidates.