The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) says it is technically ready to conduct the 2021 Local Government Elections.
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Glen Mashinini, made the announcement during the official launch of the 2021 Municipal Elections on Wednesday, where the Commission unveiled a mobilisation campaign aimed at encouraging eligible voters to register and participate in the October elections.
The mobilisation campaign will be rolled out from Wednesday over two phases across television, radio, digital and outdoor channels throughout the country under the theme, ‘Every Voice Together’.
Speaking at the launch, Mashinini admitted that preparing for the country’s fifth Municipal Elections under such uncertain and unpredictable conditions, has presented the Commission with one of the most difficult balancing acts in democratic history.
“The Commission is literally walking a tightrope. On the one side is the tyranny of the elections becoming a super-spreader event, leading to further loss of human life.
“On the other side is the tyranny of the failure to adhere to the dictates of our Constitution, leading to democratic backsliding and setting an undesirable precedent for the future. We dare not fall to either side,” Mashinini said.
Mashinini said the Commission is technically ready to deliver the elections. The IEC believes the 2021 Municipal Elections should proceed as things currently stand.
“Based on the Constitution, the law, operational readiness for the elections and a thorough assessment of the current pandemic conditions, the Commission is of the view that we are technically ready to deliver the elections.
“This assessment was conducted in consultation with health and disaster management authorities and various subject matter experts. The Commission has also drawn extensively on the experiences of more than 100 countries and territories around the world, which have successfully held elections under COVID-19 conditions,” Mashinini said.
Measures in place to ensure safe elections
The chairperson assured the nation that effective mitigation measures are in place to ensure that the elections are conducted safely.
“These protocols have been developed and tested successfully in over 150 by-elections over the past seven months,” he said.
Calling on all citizens to take part in the elections, Mashinini said voting is not just about the Electoral Commission, political parties or independent candidates.
“Elections are about ordinary citizens coming together to determine the future of our cities, towns, communities and neighbourhoods in an expression of the will of the people.”
Focus on young and first-time voters
Chief Electoral Officer, Sy Mamabolo, said a major focus of the campaign will be on encouraging young and first-time voters to register and vote in a bid to boost voter registration numbers ahead of the closing of the voters’ roll. This will be done upon proclamation by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which is expected in early August.
Based on population estimates from Statistics South Africa, Mamabolo said it is estimated that some 15 million eligible voters remain unregistered.
Currently, the voters’ roll has 25.75 million registered voters.
“Of these, about 60% are under the age of 30. This is not necessarily a reflection of so-called apathy by young people. Young voters have had fewer opportunities to register than older voters, with millions only qualifying for registration over the past 24 months since the last major voter registration drive.
“The youth of today are used to operating within a digital and online environment, and frequently seek a more convenient and accessible option for registration. The Electoral Commission is currently working with political parties within the National Party Liaison Committee to finalise alternative and additional modalities for registration and we hope to make announcements in this regard soon,” Mamabolo said.
The voter registration weekend is scheduled to take place on 17 – 18 July 2021, where all registered voters will be able to check and update their registration details, and new voters can register.
Voting stations will open countrywide from 8am – 5pm. – SAnews.gov.za