vaccine elections
(Photo by Gallo Images/OJ Koloti)
  • South Africa's Electoral Commission has, once again, debunked "rumours" about voters needing to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination.
  • But this doesn't mean the upcoming municipal elections can't be used to further the country's vaccination rollout.
  • Government has been asked to consider using voting stations as vaccination sites in the runup to 1 November.
  • This proposal was tabled by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and the department of health's Incident Management Team.
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The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa has reiterated that voters in the upcoming municipal elections will not be required to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination to cast their ballot.

The IEC is gearing up for South Africa's sixth round of municipal elections under trying circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 26 million South Africans are registered to vote on 1 November, in an election which has faced legal hurdles and health concerns around the potential of a super spreader event.

South Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout has slowed from its record pace in early September, with government's initial target of reaching 70% of the population by the end of 2021 becoming increasingly unattainable. This has fuelled concerns that crowds of people in congregate settings, like voting stations, may hasten the arrival of the fourth wave.

But while government mulls incentives to nudge people towards vaccination, the IEC says it won't impose any mandate on voters. This position was reiterated by the IEC's chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo during voter registration weekend in September.

"Vaccination is not linked to your right to vote," said Mamabolo. "We are implementing non-pharmaceutical interventions at the voting stations… it is not mandatory for you to be vaccinated in order to vote."

The IEC, once again, took to Twitter on Monday to debunk "rumours" around a vaccination mandate, saying that voters "do not need to produce a vaccination certificate or be vaccinated to vote."

But the municipal elections can be used to further South Africa's vaccination drive, according to the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19. The committee, comprised of a team of infectious disease experts, which plays a vital role in consultation with government when analysing Covid-19 risks and mitigation strategies, made recommendations to the department of health after voter registration weekend.

MAC recommendations – made public by the department of health on 11 October – include relaxing curfew, limiting alcohol sales, and the strict enforcement of all public health and social measures.

"These public health and social measures will apply irrespective of whether a member of the public has been vaccinated or not," the MAC adds.

Administering vaccinations at voting stations should, however, be considered by government in the runup to 1 November, according to the department of health's Incident Management Team (IMT) which forms part of the recommendations.

"Consideration should be given to identifying vaccination opportunities, such as offering vaccinations at voting stations," notes the IMT.

While the Gauteng Provincial Government opened more vaccination sites during voter registration, the national department of health and IEC have not yet confirmed whether voting stations will be co-opted into the vaccination rollout on or before 1 November.

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