Lockdown halts Ward 63 by-election

The by-elections for Ward 63 have been postponed. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

With just three months to go until the local government election in October, some have questioned whether last week’s postponed by-election will take place at all.

The by-election in Ward 63 and seven others across the city, which was to have taken place last week, was postponed due to the increase in Covid-19 cases and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of an adjusted level 4 lockdown.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (sometimes referred to as the Independent Electoral Commission – IEC) made the decision after the president’s announcement of the restrictions on Sunday June 27 which prohibit almost all public gatherings including political ones.

The decision to delay the by-elections for the eight wards across 48 voting stations and involving 71 305 registered voters was made by the electoral court for a period not exceeding 120 days from the date of the order.

They were to have been contested by 40 candidates from 14 political parties, and three independent candidates.

The court also granted the Electoral Commission leave to approach the court for further relief should it be necessary – meaning it could possibly be postponed again pending lockdown regulations.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the commission would continue to assess the current conditions and scope of restrictions to determine an appropriate date for the by-elections to be held.

“The Electoral Commission will engage with the relevant provincial MECs for Cooperative Governance other key stakeholders including political parties and candidates who are registered to contest the by-elections in this regard,” she said.

Ward 63 ANC candidate Dmitri Jegels said no one could be blamed because the pandemic had affected everything.

“The president had to make the decision to put the country on level 4 restrictions as the numbers of the Delta variant has spiked and is a lot more transmittable. The IEC would have been in defiance of the president’s decree if the by-elections went ahead.”

Mr Jegels and his constituency would monitor the situation as the local government elections were supposed to take place in October. “Effectively I don’t see the by-elections happening because it wouldn’t make sense to hold a by-election and then have the local government elections a few days after. At the moment it seems to be a waste of resources to hold the by-elections right before the municipal elections,” he said.

He encouraged residents to remain safe and stick to safety protocols. “It’s preferable that we act to save lives and livelihoods. Although the by-elections have been postponed, the work in the communities is still ongoing.”

The DA’s candidate Carmen Siebritz-Veldsman said they were ready to contest a by-election. “Should the by-elections be scheduled prior to the 27th of October, we will still be ready. As the DA candidate, I pledge to continue driving service delivery in the ward.”

She also encouraged residents in the ward to keep safe, mask up and sanitise as often as possible.

The adjusted alert level 4’s tighter restrictions include a ban on alcohol sales, a tightened curfew, school closures and a restriction on gatherings for two weeks – from Monday 28 June until Sunday 11 July.

– All gatherings whether indoors or outdoors or prohibited. These include political cultural, social and religious gatherings.

– Funerals and cremations will continue to be permitted, but attendance may not exceed 50 people, and all social distancing and health, protocols must be observed.

– The curfew will in place from 9pm until 4am and all non-essential establishments will need to close by 8pm.The sale of alcohol is prohibited for on-site and off-site consumption.

– The closure of schools and other educational institutions was brought forward, with schools closing between Wednesday June 30 and Friday July 2.