It is time to face the harsh reality: South Africa’s power crisis is spiraling out of control. Eskom’s proposed Stage 16 load-shedding framework is a grim indication of the bleak future ahead. Frequent and prolonged load-shedding has significantly impacted the daily lives of citizens and the country’s economy. Eskom’s coal-fired power generation fleet has deteriorated to a level that necessitates higher load-shedding levels, which is a direct result of years of neglect and mismanagement. While Eskom’s plans to develop a contingency framework for Stage 16 load-shedding may appear to be a prudent course of action, it is merely a band-aid solution to a problem that requires a more comprehensive approach.
Eskom’s primary focus should be ending load-shedding rather than pre-empting more cuts and electricity demand. The potential implementation of Stage 16 load-shedding, with its catastrophic impact on the country’s economy and daily life, clearly indicates that Eskom’s current strategy is not working.
Meanwhile, the power utility remains plagued by scandals across all quarters and recently revealed draft plans for more drastic degrees of load-shedding will do little to calm the nervous sentiment of businesses suffering under the current regime of rolling blackouts.
South Africa’s electricity woes have been well-documented, much to the chagrin of its populace and politicians in the face of massive internal and external scrutiny. At every stage of load-shedding, Eskom rations the country by a further 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power. Up to this point, the highest level of load-shedding implemented has been Stage 6, with up to 6,000 MW removed from the grid. In real terms, this means that South Africans could be affected approximately 18 times for four days for up to four-and-a-half hours at a time, with a devastating economic impact. Stage 8 – the highest level previously planned for – has yet to be implemented.
However, the prognosis may have worsened with Eskom acknowledging its preparations for load-shedding beyond Stage 8. Load-shedding is governed by a South African Bureau of Standards document called NRS048–9:2019, a collection of specifications governing the quality of South Africa’s electricity supply. When pressed on whether a working group comprised of Eskom, its System Operator, and industry stakeholders would extend the load-shedding protocol beyond Stage 8, Eskom’s acting head of generation, Thomas Conradie, stopped short of admitting the schedule would go up to Stage 16. He replied, “The responsible thing is to make sure that this document caters for higher stages of load-shedding and that those schedules are being developed upfront [so] we have a more systematic approach if we require it.”
If Stage 16 load-shedding were to be implemented, and Eskom continues with linear increases in electricity rationing, it would mean that up to 16,000 MW would be cut from the grid. This figure would equate to roughly half the total demand in South Africa. This would severely impact the country’s economy and effectively guarantee entry into a prolonged recession, as many businesses and industries would be forced to shut down during the extended blackouts.
The news arrives amidst a series of scandals surrounding Eskom, with one of the most recent coming in the form of criticism from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who alleged that the SOE was “not being honest about the extent of the generation units removed from the grid” – implying that Eskom has been clandestinely moving to Stage 8 without permission of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA).
The intensification of load-shedding last year led to the 25 July announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of a series of interventions to address the problem, including the establishment of a National Energy Crisis Committee. During his 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Ramaphosa followed this by announcing a National State of Disaster that would remove regulatory red tape on energy procurement – a move that was met with a chorus of criticism from those pointing to the government’s murky track record in similar scenarios, such as the emergency procurements made by the Department of Health during the pandemic.
The energy crisis was the main theme of the 2023 SONA, which spoke to the government’s R1.5 trillion Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP), the president’s plans to appoint a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, and a commitment to improving the performance of Eskom, with Treasury having subsequently finalised a solution to the SOE’s R400 billion debt burden and secured additional funding to purchase diesel for the rest of the financial year.
Despite efforts to provide some calm and reassurance to business and the electorate, Eskom’s recent boardroom-level public furor threatens serious political damage for senior officials of the ruling party and Eskom itself. The controversial tell-all interview with then-outgoing CEO Andre De Ruyter brought his turbulent tenure to an abrupt end as he cast accusations of systemic corruption and warned of troubled waters ahead. Responsibility for appointing his successor now looks likely to fall to Ramokgopa, whose tasks will include ending rolling blackouts by overseeing urgent repairs and bringing new energy to the grid.
Although well-constructed multi-stakeholder contingency plans, in and of themselves, are indicative of institutional strength and clever foresight, in South Africa’s case, this conclusion is unlikely to sit comfortably in the minds of the population. Recent events suggest that the energy crisis will remain a longer-term issue. While the probability of experiencing Stage 16 load-shedding appears low, and it is important to note that Stage 16 remains a hypothetical scenario, its implications cannot be underplayed. Stages 5 and 6 are becoming more and more commonplace as 2023 progresses, and it is not difficult to imagine winter’s onset being the darkest in some time.
To prevent the realisation of higher stages of load-shedding, government must prioritise the urgent repairs and new energy sources needed to bring Eskom’s infrastructure up to standard. The energy crisis is a long-term issue that requires a long-term solution, not a Band-Aid fix that will exacerbate the problem by destroying confidence.
 Kahla, C. (2021), ‘Load shedding stages explained: Here’s what you need to know’, The Citizen [Online], https://www.citizen.co.za/news/eskom-load-shedding-stages-explained/
 Vermeulen, J. (2023), ‘Stage 16 load-shedding schedules for South Africa — Eskom responds’, My Broadband [Online], https://mybroadband.co.za/news/energy/482007-stage-16-load-shedding-schedules-for-south-africa-eskom-responds.html
 Nyathi, M. (2023), ‘Eskom is not being honest about load-shedding’, Mail & Guardian [Online], https://mg.co.za/environment/2023-03-03-eskom-is-not-being-honest-about-load-shedding/
The Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) on Industrialization and Economic Diversification in Africa took place between the 20th and 25th of November 2022 in Niamey, Niger. The Summit’s aim was to commemorate Africa Industrialization Day – an annual occasion proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 to raise awareness about the importance of African industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent.
According to Africa’s Industrial Revolution report, the continent’s industrialization drive stands to benefit from an innovative policy mix that combines the focus on traditional manufacturing with a forward-looking focus on new and emerging sophisticated opportunities. African leaders have long echoed the need to reverse the dependence on the global north by accelerating the process of industrialization on the continent by strengthening the institutional frameworks underpinning intra-African trade.
With this imperative in mind, the Summit was attended by leaders across the AU Member States who engaged under the auspices of devising cooperative pathways in order to mobilize industrialization efforts as a fundamental pillar of economic growth, development, and the expansion of employment opportunities. All of these serve the achievement of the African Development Agenda 2063.
In particular, the Summit discussed important issues such as activating the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and its relationship with industrialization, employment, technological renewal, and organizational capacity in order to improve industrial performance and make it competitive, as well as making the most of regional value chains.
The Summit also took note of the progress made so far on the AfCFTA and adopted a Draft Decision of the Extraordinary Session on the AfCFTA and three Operational Tools including the AfCFTA E-Tariff Book, AfCFTA Rules of Origin Manual, and the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative.
The AU Summit further incorporated the Extraordinary Ordinary Session of the African Union on the AfCFTA on November 25th, where several key points of commitment were made. Central to these was a reaffirmation of their ‘determination to ensure that Africa’s industrialization and economic diversification are financed in a predictable manner and with the urgency of identifying and addressing the impediments to productivity and growth through infrastructural development, energy, access to finance, digitalization, innovation, and skills development to achieve economic diversification.’
The Summit also helped to highlight some of the shortcomings that have hampered economic recovery and the continent’s ability to realize the full potential of a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion. In particular, some leaders noted in their addresses the lack of a clear and coherent continental policy on industry and industrialization as an impediment to the operationalization of the AfCFTA.
Other key outcomes of the Summit included consideration of the Report of the joint meeting of the Ministers of Industry and Economy that took place on November 7th in Niamey. The meeting also considered and adopted the Declaration and Decision of the AU Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification.
The recent AU Summit provided another opportunity for national, regional, and continental stakeholders from both the public and private sector to discuss areas of cooperation to facilitate sustainable development in Africa. A recurring theme championed by leaders throughout the Summit echoes the broader discourse around the need for trade and industrial policy alignment – especially between the overlapping policy approaches at the levels of the Member State, Regional Economic Community (REC), and the AU – in order to unlock intra-African trade and inclusive growth.
On behalf of USAID’s African Trade and Investment program, Tutwa was able to deliver a private sector-focused hybrid seminar as a side event at the AU Summit in Niamey, titled ‘Beyond Trade in Goods and Services: Preparing for Phase II of the AfCFTA’. With the support of expert trade and development practitioners, Tutwa’s consultants were able to successfully deliver presentations that spoke to a range of issues that explored policy approaches that could help optimize policy responses to the Phase II and Phase III AfCFTA protocols which include digital trade, investment, intellectual property rights, and the role of women and youth in trade.
AU Extraordinary Summit on industrialization and economic diversification
- To accelerate commodity-based industrialization as an engine of growth, productive jobs, and economic diversification through regional value chains on the continent’s natural resources endowments, with priorities on health and pharmaceutical, automotive, minerals beneficiation, food and nutrition, and apparel of cotton industries to reduce the continent’s external dependency. In this regard, the African Union Commission will now draft a report with clear recommendations for strengthening regional value chains.
- To increase investments in infrastructure and energy with the support of financial institutions and partners to reduce production costs and boost the competitiveness of the African economies.
- To enhance domestic resource mobilization to ensure sustainable financing on Africa’s industrialization and allocate a minimum of 5 – 10% of the national budget dedicated to industrial development.
- To develop sustainable Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks as well as work with and support existing ones in member states as a means to overcoming existing industrial infrastructure constraints and become hubs for regional value chain integration.
- To ensure inclusive and sustainable industrialization, the Heads of State and Government and other stakeholders will have regular dialogue with the private sector to scale up high-level engagement in industrialization. The African Union Commission in collaboration with other institutions will strengthen support to Member States in creating an enabling business environment for the private sector to thrive.
- The leaders endorsed the African Union Small Medium Strategy. Relatedly, the African Union Commission is tasked with establishing and operationalising the Africa Enterprise Network. The African Union Commission will also work with the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO) and the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) to expedite the finalization of the Made in Africa Standards and Guidelines.
- The leaders have committed to reserve a minimum of 10% of public procurement to local enterprises, to strengthen the private sector development and industrialization.
- At the Summit, the leaders agreed to establish, at the national level, programs for industrial linkages between the educational system and the labor market, aimed at promoting the competitiveness of the private sector through the development of soft and hard skills necessary for industrialization in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and robotics and artificial Intelligence. Relatedly, the African Union Commission and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) will prepare a feasibility study on the establishment of an African Manufacturing Institute to support Member States and the private sector in the development of modern manufacturing skills and fostering innovation in the manufacturing sector that will accompany the ongoing structural economic transformation in Africa.
- E Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger, was appointed the African Union Champion on Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Productive Transformation, to provide political leadership and awareness, and ensure a follow-up on the progress regarding the industrial development on the continent to achieve Africa’s transformation under Agenda 2063. The African Union Commission will set up an Inter-Institutional Coordination Mechanism to provide technical assistance to the AU Champion.
- With prevailing exceptional circumstances that justify the extension of the TRIPS Agreement to cover therapeutics and diagnostics for a comprehensive response for COVID-19, and to diversify production, the Heads of State called on all WTO Members to support the extension of the TRIPS waiver to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics no later than 17 December 2022. Africa accounts for less than 5% of global production of all medical products, exposing the continent to vulnerabilities and fragility during pandemics.
Source: African union press release
The 42nd Ordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) took place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on 17th and 18th August 2022. Under the theme of “Promoting industrialization through, agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth”, the Summit was attended by heads of state and government who came together to discuss a broad spectrum of issues centered on the need for a collective framework to strengthen regional economic integration, promote sustainable development, and an end to conflict in the region.
A notable outcome of the Summit was the election of DRC President Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo who replaced President Lazarus Chakwera of the Republic of Malawi as the chairman of the intergovernmental organization, with Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço chosen as the subsequent in-coming chair.
Peace across the region – or rather the lack thereof – remained a cause for concern amongst the attendees. Two conflicts in particular – in Mozambique and the DRC, respectively – have dominated the regional political zeitgeist of late, carrying with them corrosive socio-economic and political consequences for these countries and neighboring states.
In the case of Mozambique, the Summit approved the extension of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) to support the government’s efforts to maintain security in the Cabo Delgado province; whilst paying tribute to the nine SAMIM personnel who passed away in the line of duty. The renewed emphasis on SAMIM is indicative of the bloc’s commitment to addressing security concerns in the region, realizing the extent to which instability and violence houses the potential for cross-border spillover, and hence requiring a multilateral solution that includes military and technical assistance, but extends into the national and regional policy arena where governments are tasked with ensuring that local communities are incorporated into inclusive growth initiatives. In the latter, leaders expressed concern over the alarming rise in violence amongst armed groups in the mineral-rich eastern region of the Summit’s host country, with an increase in civilian casualties and displacement setting the stage for a renewed humanitarian crisis.
In keeping with its theme of taking a regional approach to fostering peace in Member States, the Summit also highlighted the need for a resolution to security challenges in the Kingdom of Eswatini, mandating the creation of an Extra-ordinary Summit of the Organ Troika to work with the government of Eswatini towards finding a peaceful and sustainable solution. President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, as the SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, gave an update on the implementation of reforms recommended by SADC to bring an end to recurrent political instability in Lesotho. Whilst acknowledging the progress that has already been made, the Summit called on the Kingdom to act with greater urgency and expedite the process which involves strengthening the institutional pillars of democracy.
Reaffirming its geopolitical stance, SADC vocalized its vehement opposition to a proposed new United States law that seeks to prevent Russia from bypassing US and EU-led sanctions via a network of allies. The Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, which SADC’s 16-state membership has complained would make Africa “the target of unilateral and punitive measures”, was passed on April 27th by the US House of Representatives and would enable its government to monitor Russian foreign policy in Africa where it identifies what it deems a “malign influence”. The move was roundly rebuked by SADC’s leaders who reaffirmed their non-aligned position to conflicts occurring outside of the African continent.
Overall, the 42nd Ordinary Summit, while not as consequential as previous meetings, was indicative of the bloc’s commitment to defending the region from within – demonstrating a willingness to defend the region from within, by committing resources to upholding the peace and stability needed to serve as the basis for sustainable development – and from external influence, standing firm on its refusal to be drafted into increasing geopolitical polarization. Perhaps the most important achievement outside of the theme of peace and security was the approval and signing of the Agreement Amending the SADC Treaty on Transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament – a move that gives the organization greater powers that could increase the potency of decisions reached in future meetings.
The 43rd SADC Summit will be held in Luanda, Angola in 2023.
“Africa Is not for Sale. Africa is open for business, not for sale or looting. We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours…If the world wants what we have they must buy in a fair trade so that we use proceeds to build ourselves new cities, new universities, new infrastructure, industries and new programmes that lifts people out of poverty and vulnerability.” Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi
The 2021 local government elections (LGEs) were remarkable for many reasons, none more significant than the birth of an era where the African National Congress (ANC) exists with less than 50 percent of an election result. While the national incumbent’s decline has been resoundingly welcomed by the opposition, the electorate’s decision to punish the ANC in major municipalities was not in favour of any one countervailing force. Instead, the 2021 LGEs signaled a more disparate voice amongst voters, beckoning those in power to set aside their egos and exercise their capacity for cooperation and compromise to fulfil their mandate to deliver essential services to local communities.
At first glance, the complexity of the outcome is overwhelming in terms of predicting an accurate picture of who will actually govern at the municipal level. Municipalities, where the electorate delivered a clear majority, saw the ANC securing control of 161 councils, the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 13, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) securing control of 10. Nevertheless, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) results show the largest number of hung municipalities in the country since 1994. A total of 66 municipalities have been left hung across the country, meaning that no party was able to win more than 50% of the votes, giving rise to an intense and potentially heated negotiation for possible coalition governments.
The most interesting feature of the results is not which parties achieved the majority of votes, but which parties have secured enough votes to insert themselves as potential coalition kingmakers for the two leading parties, the ANC and the DA – both of whom experienced several humbling results in comparison to the 2016 LGEs.
The disenchantment with the status quo was most evident in major metros, where the stewardship of the country’s economic power is housed. Of South Africa’s eight Metropolitan Municipalities, the electorate failed to give one party an outright majority in five of them – namely Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.
In the City of Johannesburg, the ANC received 33.60%, the DA received 26.47%, and ActionSA – led by its founder and DA-divorcee Herman Mashaba – garnered 16.05% of the vote. While the ANC obtained the most votes in each metro except for the DA’s stronghold in the City of Cape Town, and in Nelson Mandela Bay where the ANC and the DA will occupy 48 seats each, the pattern of the former liberation party’s reduced results echoed through Ekurhuleni, where it obtained 38.19% in comparison to the DA’s 28.92%; in eThekwini, where it obtained 42.02% to the DA’s 25.62%; and in Tshwane, where its 34.31% narrowly beat the DA’s 32.34%. It is in these metros where the balance of power will rest with several of the smaller parties, whose allegiance will be cajoled in the horse-trading to follow.
“The manner in which our people spoke should be indicative of their wish to have us as leaders working together,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday night at the IEC’s official announcement of the results. The president is correct – the electorate’s disillusionment with previous majorities is a clear signal to the under-fire elite that South Africans would rather entrust a plethora of alternatives to serve their interests at the local level. However, the personal and ideological posturing of several parties has complicated the permutations of potential coalitions.
Predictably, the national opposition party has ruled out forming coalitions with ANC, with party leader John Steenhuisen saying “It is not the DA’s role to save the ANC”, thereby excluding the possibility of the most mathematically feasible partnership, forcing the DA to embark on the challenging road of persuading several smaller parties that curtailing the country’s historically entrenched socio-economic disparities is at the core of its manifesto. The DA has also said it will not enter into any coalition agreements with the EFF or any other party that does not subscribe to constitutionalism, the rule of law, a social market economy, a capable state as well as non-racialism. “These are the non-negotiables for the DA,” Steenhuisen added.
The EFF’s agenda on land expropriation without compensation could play a key role in who the party decides to partner within coalition talks. Having re-asserted itself as the country’s third-largest party with a revolutionary mandate, the EFF could have a deciding vote in several hung municipalities and metros, particularly in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. The party’s chief, Julius Malema, has also celebrated the dwindling majority of the ANC, reiterating that the ‘elephant is being eaten piece by piece. However, a lack of options for the ANC could see its National Executive Council moving its position on land expropriation to force a last-ditch partnership capable of blocking DA-led coalitions.
The apparent deadlock between the ANC, DA and EFF empowers the seats taken by a number of other parties who will have to weigh their options in the coming days. Newcomers in the political space, ActionSA will be in high demand as a centrist force in Gauteng’s split metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and they too have ruled out working with the ANC, though their leader has decried the DA’s institutional arrogance and tendency to overlook the suffering of the country’s poorest as reasons for his exit from the party in 2019. Further to the right of the political spectrum, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) doubled its number of seats. Taking a more pragmatic approach that focuses on achieving the objectives of its manifesto over party-political grievances, the Patriotic Alliance (PA) could also influence outcomes in some areas. These are only a few of the parties that will garner the attention of the bigger players.
It is a political fact that many of the extreme positions espoused by campaigning candidates are inevitably tempered by the realities of governance. This is particularly true in the wake of LGEs, where communities will place more importance on their candidate’s role in securing the amenities that facilitate their daily lives, caring less about their affiliate party’s ideological posturing in the National Assembly. Parties, on the other hand, will have to consider the risk of destabilizing their core vote at the 2024 national elections by sidelining some of their more divisive ideological stances.
However, the greater risk is undoubtedly to subject local communities to a cycle of governance that fails to deliver on the basic needs of the people. The outcome, whichever coalitions are formed, is indicative of a new era of multi-party democracy for South Africa, and its politicians have the power to determine the success of its maturation at the local level.
Image Rights: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-11-16-coalition-talks-while-parties-push-for-control-of-hung-councils-the-clock-ticks-relentlessly/
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change across multiple dimensions through which human civilisations have come to function. Some of these could not have been anticipated before 2020; in many instances, however, the shock has accelerated processes that were already underway. In South Africa, concerns over the ability to hold free, fair, and safe elections have led to a long-running saga between the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and competing interests within the polity. Ensuing contestations have been directed towards the country’s apex court, whose judgments have become increasingly sought for the interpretation of constitutional disputes.
The establishment of an independent body to manage elections has become an institutional norm of democracies. The body is designed to serve as an independent agency that regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run. As an extension of the separation of powers – in which the judicial, legislative and the executive arms of the state carry out checks and balances, but do not interfere with the others’ functions – the purpose of the electoral commission is to provide the standards of impartiality which underscore the legitimacy of the democratic process. In South Africa, the IEC was established, along with several other institutions in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution, to guard democracy by making governments answerable and exerting co-operative control.
In a climate dominated by the imperative to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the IEC has faced a dilemma over how to facilitate local government elections due to take place in 2021. Many countries have wrestled with the question of how best to enact their democratic process in the knowledge that it would require large-scale in-person participation of the electorate. Although many countries have opted to proceed and make accommodations – for example, by expanding online voter registration and ballot casting – the IEC took the view that postponement would be the best course of action and sought the approval of the Constitutional Court.
The IEC’s argument rested on the recommendations of the Moseneke Report, which proposed several adjustments to assist in reducing the potential for the transmission of COVID-19. These included extending voter registration, expanding special voting arrangements for the ill and vaccinations for poll workers. However, it also recommended that the local government elections due to take place in October 2021 be delayed until February 2022 – a date that would fall outside the 90-day window during which elections are required to be held from the expiry of the term of incumbent municipal councils. The case was supported by the ANC and some other parties, although it was opposed by others within the polity and broader civil society who maintained that the right of the electorate to remove underperforming municipal governments was more urgent than ever. On Friday 3rd September, the IEC’s application to postpone local government elections was ruled against by the Constitutional Court. The ConCourt added that elections must be held between 27th October and 1st November 2021, ordering Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to proclaim a new date no later than 10th September.
Having followed the court’s ruling that elections were to go ahead by November 1st without delay, and that a voter registration weekend would need to be held, the IEC made a further announcement that the candidate nomination process would be re-opened for political parties. In its ruling, the Constitutional Court did not specifically order the re-opening of candidate registration, though it did state that amendments could be made to the election timetable where it is deemed “reasonably necessary”. With the ANC having failed to register candidates in 93 municipalities – despite parties having had the opportunity to nominate candidates by August 23rd – the IEC’s decision has added further fuel to the fire in the build up to the election.
On September 7th, the DA filed an urgent application to the Constitutional Court, asking them to set aside the IEC’s decision to re-open candidate registration. The application – which was subsequently given support from the EFF, representing an alliance between the two major opposition parties – asserts that the court’s allowance for “reasonably necessary” amendments caters for the re-opening of the voters roll in the context of the voter registration drive. In response to the implied allegation that the electoral commission’s decisions have favoured a particular political party, Mawethu Mosery, IEC Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, said, “The court has issued us direction in response to that application. We’ve agreed with the DA that the matter is urgent and we would wish that the court pronounces on it soonest, before the 20th of September. Our view is that we will oppose that, and we will give detailed reasons why we are opposing that and why we indicated that we are not favouring a particular political party.”
Although the outcome of the DA’s application remains unclear, the persistent attempts to challenge the IEC through the judiciary may cast further doubt over the impartiality of the electoral commission. On the other side of the coin, the DA have been targeted with accusations of attempting to usurp the IEC’s authority by returning to the apex court – a move that would breach the ‘separation of powers’ principle, according to Minister Dlamini Zuma. She argues that, by overruling the IEC’s decision to re-open candidate registration on the basis of the court’s previous order, the DA’s application would somehow rescind or constrain the powers of the electoral commission.
Time will tell whether these contestations yield a tangible effect on the authority of the IEC, and by extension, the validity of the country’s electoral process. With elections due to be held by November 1st, the likely outcome is that elections will take place as planned and allowances made for voter and candidate registration. Once the ballots are cast and tallied, the build up to 2021’s local government elections will fade into memory as the political battleground turns elsewhere. The long-run implications, however, may reverberate for some time.
After 27 years, South Africa’s democracy can barely be considered to have entered its adolescence. Unsurprisingly, the pains accompanying the process of growth and maturation have become more pronounced in recent times. The State vs. Former President Zuma has manifested as another epiphenomenon of this course, with the authority of the executive, the ruling party, and the judiciary pitted against one another, resulting in the setting of new legal precedents and civil contestation. Set against a backdrop of the hollowing out of state-owned enterprises and other Chapter 9 institutions, state capture and the investigation into its participants through the Zondo Commission has brought to light the need for careful reform and oversight into the powers of officials, political parties, and non-state actors to influence institutions of democracy for self-enrichment. Challenging the authority of the IEC may have served as a declaration by some within the polity and civil society of a new front on which this battle will be fought. In the short term, it may add to the perception that South Africa’s democracy has become farcical, fraught with political interference, and symptomatic of a terminal disease within the state. Over time, however, the painful process of bringing the inner workings of the IEC to the fore and re-affirming its mandate could help serve as the antidote.