On Friday 3 September the Constitutional Court dismissed the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) application to postpone this year’s local government elections, scheduled for 27 October, to February 2022.

The IEC had applied for the postponement, based on the recommendation of former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who on 20 July released a report on the findings of his investigation into whether elections would be free and fair, not to mention safe, if held in October. The commission cited public health and the current restrictions on political gatherings as its main motivations.

Moseneke had recommended that February 2022 be the new target, as only by then would 40% of the population be vaccinated and a herd immunity state be reached, thus providing sufficient protection for voters.

The Constitutional Court ordered the IEC to determine, within three days of the judgment, whether it would be possible to hold a voter registration weekend as soon as possible, and to announce its decision accordingly. It also stipulated that elections must take place on any day between 27 October and 1 November 2021.

In addition, the court set aside the proclamation of 27 October as the election date, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and invalid. Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had proclaimed the date on 3 August in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act. Dlamini-Zuma was ordered to issue the proclamation the day after the voter registration weekend, should this be deemed possible. If the voter registration weekend is not possible, the minister must proclaim the election date no later than 10 September.

In that case, voters could still register up to 10 September by going to any IEC office or by registering online.

The IEC has indicated that it would meet to discuss the way forward. “The implications of the Constitutional Court judgment means that the Commission is now required to ensure that it prepares for an election to be held by 1 November 2021,” the commission said in a statement.

In line with the orders of the Constitutional Court, the commission will make announcements relating to the electoral programme on Monday 6 September.