DA ConCourt challenge undermines the IEC's powers, says Dlamini Zuma

The minister filed papers in the ConCourt this week opposing the DA’s application to block the reopening of candidate registrations. There is presumably one day left for the case to be heard, but the court hasn’t said when or if this will happen.

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According to the minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the DA is on a quest to convince the Constitutional Court to usurp the powers of the Electoral Commission – a move that would “breach the doctrine of separation of powers”.  

In her answering affidavit filed this week in opposition to the DA’s urgent court challenge to set aside the IEC’s decision to reopen candidate registrations, the minister said she “disagreed” with the party’s interpretation of the judgment handed down by the Constitutional Court on 3 September that the commission’s power to reopen nominations is “inextricably linked” to the order. 

The order had made provisions for the IEC to publish “reasonably necessary” amendments to the election timetable. The DA was of the view that although reopening the voters roll was permissible as per the order, allowing another round of candidate registrations was not. 

Dlamini Zuma said the commission was empowered by section 11(2) of the Electoral Act to amend the timetable – powers which were not constrained by the court order. 

The court also set aside the minister’s original proclamation of 27 October 2021 as the local government elections date, saying it “is unconstitutional [and] invalid”.

The new election date is November 1. 

The commission is the only constitutionally mandated organ of state responsible for running elections, including that those elections are free and fair,” the minister wrote. 

The ANC, EFF and IFP are listed among the intervening parties in the matter and have filed papers to the court. 

Public interest organisation Freedom Under Law (FUL), also joined as friends of the court. 

FUL, who were not in favour of the DA’s application, made three submissions: 

First, they referred to the application as “lawfare”. Second, FUL considered the commission’s implementation of the order handed down by the ConCourt on 3 September as “lawful and rational”. Third, they considered the DA’s interpretation of the order “unworkable”. 

“The suggestion that only new voters could be added to the candidate list is constitutionally untenable and contrary to the statutory regime,” they elaborated. 

Freedom Under Law CEO Nicole Fritz, in a statement issued on Thursday, said the courts were being used as a “political boxing ring”.

“This is to be deplored. The Court, as the ultimate guardian of the Constitution, is to be treated with the respect and deference that it deserves rather than as an arena for bald political contestation.” 

Given that candidate registrations are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, there is presumably one day left for the case to be heard and judgment to be handed down; however, the Constitutional Court has not said whether it will hear the application. 

Meanwhile, the IEC has declared its readiness for the voter registration weekend on Saturday and Sunday. 

In a statement issued on Thursday, the commission said 23,151 registration stations will be in operation from 8am to 5pm on both days. 

For the first time, Voter Management Devices (VMDs) will be used on a mass scale – 40,000 have been procured. 

“The VMDs will enable an almost instantaneous citizenship verification as well as the correct capturing of a residential address assisted by a mapping functionality. Registration applications have been loaded and at least one VMD has been allocated to each voting station on the Logistics Information System.” 

To register, voters need to bring an ID, or a Temporary Identification Certificate. Proof of address is not a requirement for purposes of registration but voters need to indicate an address or a description of where they live. 

Online registration is already active. 

The online registration system will remain open until the date of proclamation of the elections which we expect on Monday, 20 September 2021.” DM

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