IEC boss Sy Mamabolo. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

IT’s all systems go for the 2021 Local Government Elections in October, with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) bosses on Thursday saying a postponement of the election was not an option.

Some political parties had argued for the polls to be pushed back to 2022 once the worst of COVID-19 has passed.

Among others, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the IFP voiced concerns about conducting elections amid COVID-19 restrictions, arguing that this would deprive many parties of an opportunity to freely and fairly campaign.

But on Thursday the IEC said it welcomed an announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the local government elections will be held in October.   

THE IEC said it will be working closely with all participating political parties, state institutions and others to finalise, promote and implement COVID-19 safety protocols for voter registration and voting itself to ensure the safe participation of everyone.

The IEC also assures the public that strict measures will be put in place in monitoring queues at voting stations.

The IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said they would now start with final preparations

“The first aspect is the voter registration and the commission will soon embark on a national voter registration campaign to facilitate and encourage participants,” said Mamabolo.

“The Electoral Commission will also be working closely with all participating political parties, state institutions and others to finalise, promote and implement COVID-19 safety protocols for voter registration and voting itself to ensure the safe participation of everyone.”

The polls, scheduled for every five years and last held in 2016, allow South Africans to vote for public representatives at metropolitan, district and the local level.

“The announcement creates certainty and allows the Electoral Commission and all other stakeholders to begin their final preparations to hold free, fair and safe elections,” said the IEC.

“Among the key activities to be undertaken over the next six months include arranging a voter registration drive culminating in a nation-wide registration weekend during which all voting stations will open to allow voters to check and update their registration details and for new voters to register.”

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen said his party welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement that South Africa’s Local Government Elections will indeed proceed on 27 October 2021.

“Free, fair, and regular elections are the bedrock of our constitutional democracy and the DA is delighted that South Africans will get an opportunity to exercise their hard-won right to vote later this year,” said Steenhuisen.

“Nothing is more important to our nation than the freedom to vote, especially when South Africa has spent over a year under the harshest and longest lockdowns in the world as government has failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Steenhuisen said the fact that government has completely botched the roll out of a comprehensive and effective vaccination strategy in South Africa, ‘the only way out of this devastating lockdown, has provided voters with the perfect opportunity to head to the polls’.

“South Africa stands on the precipice of economic ruin with the highest unemployment rate in the world, deep-set government corruption with no accountability, and absolute policy uncertainty. It is this vacuum of leadership, transparency, and integrity that the DA is ready to fill,” said Steenhuisen.

“The DA has stabilized and is swiftly gaining momentum as our message of change begins to resonate with more and more citizens across South Africa. We are ready to contest the Local Government Elections later this year in thousands of wards across the country where we want to bring real change to all South Africans and deliver the government that our country so deserves.”

Meanwhile, in the by-elections contested on Wednesday, the African National Congress (ANC) retained ten seats and won two seats over the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The IFP and DA both retained one seat won in the 2016 Municipal Elections.

According to the IEC, the average voter turnout was 40.65% for all fourteen (14) wards that contested on Wednesday.

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