Yesterday, The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) announced in a statement that it will be heading to court to join the legal action regarding the postponement of the local government elections.

This matter will be heard by the Constitutional Court on Friday, 20 August. And according to the IRR, “it will count among the most important cases pertaining to South Africa’s democracy to be heard in the past 27 years.”

The Constitution states that an election must be held within 90 days after the term of a municipal council expires. This means an election must take place on or before 1 November 2021. However, the IEC has decided to approach the Constitutional Court to ask for a postponement after a report compiled by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke found that it would not be possible to hold “free and fair” elections due to concerns around Covid-19.

The IRR argues that it would be safer to hold elections in October, as this is what some of the medical experts said in their submissions to Moseneke and his commission.

“Part of the rationale for postponing the election to February rather than holding it in October as originally scheduled is that there is some uncertainty regarding what the Covid situation will be like in October. However, nor do we know what the situation will be like in February – and some of the medical experts who made presentations to the Moseneke Commission said that while October was likely to be a period of fairly low Covid transmission, we could be in the beginnings of a fourth wave in February, if the virus continues to behave as we have come to expect.”

Should the Constitutional Court decide that it would indeed not be possible to hold “free and fair elections” then the IRR proposes a staggered election.

“If the Court decides that a nationwide election cannot be held on 27 October, the IRR proposes that elections be staggered by province with an eye on Covid infection rates. Those provinces which have low infection rates (such as Gauteng currently) should be allowed to have elections proceed at the earliest possible moment, to allow the entire electoral process to be completed throughout the country as close as possible to 1 November.”

A precedent exists for staggered elections. Two provinces held their elections after the rest of the country in 1996, said the IRR.

“There is a precedent for staggering elections. South Africa’s first post-apartheid local government elections were held at different times in different provinces. While seven provinces went to the polls on the same day in 1995, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape held elections on separate days in 1996.”

“Postponing the election must be an absolute last resort in extraordinary circumstances. The IEC is essentially asking the Constitutional Court to save its bacon after it has failed to fulfil its constitutional mandate. Other solutions must be found before playing fast and loose with the hard-won right to vote of all South Africans. Our proposal balances safeguarding the Constitution with the concerns of the IEC. Now they will have no excuse,” said IRR Campaign Officer, Duwayne Esau.

You can read the full press statement here.

If you would like to support the IRR’s legal challenge to save your vote you can do so here: – or you can donate R10 by SMSing your name to 12345 (Ts & Cs apply. SMS costs R10).