IRR challenges IEC report on free and fair elections

23 July 2021 - The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has written to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to challenge the findings of its report on whether the municipal election scheduled for October would be free and fair, to query its procedural integrity, and to urge that it executes its constitutional duty to administer free and fair elections before municipal government dissolves nationwide.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has written to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to challenge the findings of its report on whether the municipal election scheduled for October would be free and fair, to query its procedural integrity, and to urge that it executes its constitutional duty to administer free and fair elections before municipal government dissolves nationwide.
 
Earlier this week the IEC published a report on whether the scheduled elections could be free and fair. According to this report, it will not be “reasonably possible” to hold elections in a “free and fair” manner as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and concomitant restrictions. The report recommends that the municipal elections be postponed to February next year. This report is procedurally irregular, irrational and reckless, and must be dismissed.
 
The position of the IRR is that it would be an error to postpone the elections – there is no guarantee that the country will be in a better position in February 2022 with regard to Covid-19 than it will be in October 2021. Quite the opposite: scientific evidence presented by the IEC shows that February 2022 is likely to be more dangerous than October 2021, viz Covid-19, because of “Covid-19 fatigue”, the likelihood of an October trough and February 4th wave, and the likelihood of mutations that reduce vaccine effectiveness, and no holistic assessment in the IEC report to the contrary. Furthermore, the evidence from scientists to the IEC shows that elections do not increase the rate of Covid-19 infections, and no scientific evidence was published by the IEC to the contrary.
 
In our letter to the IEC, we challenge the Moseneke report on the following grounds:
 
• The report is to the IEC, but also from IEC. Read together with the cited legislation Sections 14(4) and 5(2)(a) of the Electoral Commission Act (51 of 1996), ex-Justice
Moseneke acted as a functionary of the IEC (5,2,a) and the report is an IEC "report on the likelihood or otherwise that it will be able to ensure that (the October Municipal) election will be free and fair". Comments that the IEC is not bound by its own report are contradictory and irrational. We would like the IEC to resolve this contradiction, short of which the report must be dismissed as procedurally irregular.
• The IEC report is itself irrational since it offers no reasonable basis to limit the right to vote in regular elections, and fails to consider evidence showing that the February 2022 election it proposes could be more dangerous than an October 2021 election in terms of Covid-19.
• The report fails to produce one single peer-reviewed study to support its conclusion that elections are deadly viral spreaders, and fails to apply its mind to the experience and studies from over 100 countries that have had national elections and referendums since their first wave.
• The report indicates that Egypt and Ghana, inter alia, were capable of hosting free and fair elections in circumstances holistically equivalent to, or more dangerous than, South Africa’s by introducing common-sense measures to limit viral spread, and fails to show that the IEC could not do the same for the October 2021 election, as required by the Constitution.
 
South Africa is a young democracy that must tread carefully when it comes to postponing activities that are vital to democracy, such as elections.
 
IRR Campaigns Officer Duwayne Esau said: “This is such a young democracy that most South African seniors can remember what it was like to be denied the vote in regular, free and fair elections. It was intolerable then, and it would be intolerable now. If the IEC report was well-reasoned, that would be one thing – a constitutional crisis – but for the vote to be robbed by even one day beyond the constitutional limit on the basis of this report’s magical thinking and disregard for science would set a shocking precedent. We must not lose what our elders fought so hard to enshrine.”
 

Media contacts: Duwayne Esau, IRR Campaign Officer – 081 700 0302; duwayne@irr.org.za 
Gabriel Crouse, IRR Head of Campaigns – 082 510 0360; gabriel@irr.org.za 
Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za 
Kelebogile Leepile Tel: 079 051 0073 Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za

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