All systems go for local government elections

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pretoria - It’s all systems go for the upcoming local government elections, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen said on Wednesday.

“It is all systems go. We don’t see any reason we should postpone the elections… Come 3 August, we will render another free, fair and very successful local government elections,” said Minister Van Rooyen.

This as the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Elections, led by Minster Van Rooyen, briefed media on the state of readiness for the 2016 Local Government Elections scheduled to take place on 03 August 2016.

The committee is tasked with overseeing the smooth running of the elections and ensuring that voters are able to cast their votes in an environment that is both free and fair.

The IMC is made up of Minister Van Rooyen, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

Local government elections require that potential voters register in the ward that they reside in.

In the lead-up to the elections, government embarked on a communication campaign calling on all eligible voters to register and verify their details on the voters’ roll.

Minister Van Rooyen said government is encouraged that South Africans registered in their numbers.

Voter registration weekends

According to the Electoral Commission (IEC), the two voter registration weekends in March and April witnessed a total of 1 384 254 new voters being added to the voters’ roll, with 80% of them being under the age of 30.

This brought the total number of voters to 26 296 601 million or approximately 77% of the eligible voting population. Over 6.6 million voters visited their voting stations over the voter registration weekends.

“Government is pleased that South Africans took this opportunity to register, especially the first time voters and the youth,” he said.

In response to a question, the Minister said no other voter registration weekend provision will be made.

“This was the last registration weekend. We are not looking at any other prospects of having another voter registration weekend.”

The IMC urged those who have still not registered for the elections to visit the IEC offices in their local municipalities to update their details on the voters’ roll.

Back to Basics

Last week, government carried out National Imbizo Focus Week, which saw Ministers and Deputy Ministers engage with communities across the country.

“Besides urging voters to register, we also spoke to citizens and took note of their concerns, especially around service delivery,” said Minister Van Rooyen.

He said government had adopted the Back to Basics (B2B) programme to deal with challenges at local government level.  

The Minister said it was found that one of the primary causes of service delivery protests is a lack of communication between citizens and municipalities.

He said service delivery protests have dropped for the first time since 2012.

“This comes off a peak of 191 service delivery protests in 2014 to 161 in 2015, following the launch of the B2B programme. Obviously we’re not happy with the high number of protests and are aware that they are fuelled by a number of factors, including political contestation.”

The IMC also noted that while protests are expected to rise in the run-up to the elections, the B2B initiative will lay the foundation for more stable local government.

Hotspots

The majority of the 22 617 voting stations experienced an incident-free voter registration weekend (9 - 10 April). There were about 40 voting stations that experienced problems.

The IMC expressed concern at the acts of intimidation and violence that occurred in Vuwani in the Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo, and Paarl and Wellington in the Western Cape.

It also condemned these acts, which included the blockading of roads.

The IMC has identified several municipalities where the threat of disruptions exists and it will work with the South African Police Service and ensure stability and security in the affected areas ahead of elections.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has been convened and the sub-committee on elections is co-ordinating safety and security planning for the elections.

Court challenge on voters’ addresses

Minister Van Rooyen said with President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that elections will be held in August, the proclamation marking the official announcement of the date will occur in due course.

He said the IMC is awaiting the Constitutional Court’s decision on the clarification of the issue relating to citizens without formal addresses.

“Let me reiterate that the assignment of addresses does not fall within the mandate of the IEC. Being committed to ensuring a free and fair election, we have joined the IEC as a respondent and await the decision of the Constitutional Court to be delivered on 9 May 2016. We will abide by the decision of the court,” said the Minister.

In light of the Electoral Court decision in February 2016, the IMC has begun working on finding solutions and exploring options of having proposals to assign addresses to households without formal addresses. – SAnews.gov.za

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