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Our take: An election like no other

Sometime in the next few months, South Africans will vote in the country’s sixth local government elections since 1994.

You may not have realised it, but a few recent developments make this an election like no other. 

🔹Timing 

For the first time in our democratic history, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it just won’t be ready for the date the government proclaimed, 27 October 2021. Thanks, Covid. 😐 The IEC, which pulled off our first election in 1994 despite huge obstacles, is waiting on the Constitutional Court to rule whether this year’s planned poll can be moved to February 2022. 

The ANC has sided with the IEC, saying the pandemic means parties, the commission and voters will be constrained in preparing. The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution oppose any postponement, arguing that this would be a constitutional breach.  

🔹Funding

This will also be the first election where voters know just who finances political parties, because of the new Political Party Funding Act, which came into effect on 1 April. The IEC has access to parties’ accounts and, the FF+’s Corné Mulder told News24, if the name of a donor of more than R100 000 doesn’t appear, that money is divided between all 14 parties in Parliament. Yikes! Smaller parties generally rely more on the multiparty fund and will flourish – but this policy will probably come as a huge blow to larger parties. 

🔹ANC under pressure

Speaking of party finances, the ANC’s are HELLA messy. It owes so much in taxes that the money it receives from the multiparty fund – calculated in proportion to a party’s share of the vote – was immediately taken by SARS in the last quarter. The party is expected to receive R69.2m from the fund in this financial year, according to City Press, and reportedly owes about R80m in taxes. Salaries were delayed and staff went on a go-slow, meaning a whole governing party nearly missed the Monday deadline to submit its lists to the IEC! This lists the people, in order of priority, who will represent a party in parliament, based on the number of votes it wins. A last-minute extension, granted with only a few hours to spare, saw all parties meet the deadline. The IEC will release everyone’s final lists on 7 September. 

We’re excited that independent candidates will be in the mix, following the landmark Constitutional Court ruling in June last year that cleared the way for independents to stand in provincial and national elections. 

It’s going to be a very interesting election, even if you’re feeling jaded. Developments like more transparent funding and the introduction of independent candidates to the ballot mean our system is maturing. The idea that SA’s election results are always the same is no longer true: dynamics are fast shifting, and we’ve seen coalition politics become the norm over the past few election cycles. Your vote, no matter who earns it, matters.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 26 August 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.

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