The Electoral Commission has welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the country’s return to Alert Level 1 which allows the resumption of some political activities.
“The relaxation of the restrictions paves the way for the holding of by-elections for municipal ward vacancies which arose since the last by-election in early December,” the IEC said in a statement on Monday.
The President made the announcement of the move to Level 1 in an address to the nation on Sunday.
Under the eased restrictions, political activities including political gatherings of up to 100 people in an indoor venue and 250 people in an outdoor venue are now allowed.
According to the IEC, the outstanding by-elections scheduled to be held on 21 April and 19 May will help to “clear the decks” of vacancies ahead of the Local Government Elections scheduled for between 4 August and 1 November.
A total of 45 by-elections across 37 municipalities in all nine provinces are scheduled affecting 362 431 registered voters.
Under the current Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, the cut-off for the filling of ward vacancies ahead of the elections is 1 May (six months from the latest possible date for the Local Government Elections).
The nine-month deadline for the cessation of by-elections in the case of dissolved municipal councils (1 February 2021) has already passed.
‘The resumption of by-elections is therefore one of the final opportunities ahead of the Local Government Elections for the Electoral Commission, political parties, independent candidates and other stakeholders to test their protocols for campaigning, voter registration, voting and counting of ballots while maintaining COVID-19 safety measures,” said the Commission.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission was able to conduct free, fair and safe by-elections in November and December last year during the previous Alert Level 1 phase of restrictions. The Commission remains confident that it can conduct further by-elections under the same conditions.