The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) held its Political Liaison Committee meeting virtually yesterday to give leaders of political parties a report on its readiness for the upcoming local government elections to be held on 27 October 2021.
Presiding over the meeting, the Chairperson of the IEC, Mr Glen Mashinini, reminded political party leaders that this meeting is a standing arrangement that the IEC undertakes on the eve of any election period.
Various government departments, including the Departments of Health, of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and of Home Affairs are direct stakeholders in every countrywide South African election. As these elections will take place during the Covid-19 pandemic, additional precautions must be put in place to ensure that they do not become a "super-spreader" event. The Department of Health's Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, was therefore given the opportunity to update the meeting on possible scenarios and the feasibility of holding these elections.
Dr Mkhize provided some predictions about the possible spread of the virus during the election period and noted the difficulty in determining possible scenarios and the containment measures necessary to prevent them. He urged caution, saying the department is working on conjectures and that, with the constant mutations of the virus, it is difficult to be definitive.
"Safe to say that we need a lot of caution in the winter season, because there is a likelihood of a spike in infections," Dr Mkhize said. "All we can do as a department is to monitor the infection and fatality rates and recommend what should be done."
As the elections will take place during the third phase of the vaccination drive, the Department of Health predicts that some 25 000 people will be vaccinated per day during this period. "This will be done in more than 30 000 sites that will be set out all over the country. Most of which will be in communities, churches and stadiums. This is meant to speed up the vaccination process to ensure it reaches a much larger population."
He also said that there is little risk of returning to the hard lock down of the second quarter of 2020. However, the upsurge of infections predicted for winter 2021 could coincide with the political activities leading up to the elections. Therefore, Dr Mkhize urged political parties to be cautious.