Controversial former SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng wants free access to national broadcasters and to be allocated public funds should the local government elections not be postponed until February next year.
Motsoeneng and his political party, the African Content Movement (ACM), have joined the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC’s) Constitutional Court application as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to have the municipal polls scheduled for October 27 put on hold until February next year.
The one-time acting SABC chief executive and the ACM, which contested the 2019 national and provincial elections, fully support the relief sought by the commission.
In an affidavit filed by Motsoeneng at the apex court, the ACM, established in December 2018, complained that the fact that political parties represented in the national and provincial legislatures received public funds made it more difficult for minority parties to gain representation.
”The ACM will argue that this negative influence can be limited by providing guidelines on the allocation of special funds for minority political parties or candidates,” Motsoeneng explained.The IEC has complained about the costs of holding elections but political campaigning is also increasingly costly, he said.
According to Motsoeneng, while minority political parties and candidates may previously have been able to rely on voluntary members for door-to-door canvassing and mobilisation it has now become impossible to do so in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This necessitates the need to pay for expensive advertising in newspapers, posters, billboards or buy airtime on radio and television, he said.
In Motsoeneng’s affidavit, the ACM said it will argue that should the municipal polls be postponed the Constitutional Court must give directions to the country’s national broadcasters to inform the public of the political mandate, objectives and values of all political parties that are running in the upcoming elections.
”This will play an important role in allowing free and balanced elections, foster transparency, as well as publicise and herald important electoral information to ensure participatory citizenship,” Motsoeneng stated.
The use of broadcast media is usually more effective than the print media as the eyes and ears of the public, he said.
”The mass media provides most of the electorate with a framework for understanding past, present and future events as well as providing a means of heralding information quickly and broadly to a large audience,” said Motsoeneng. The communication of political information is an important process in a political system and the mass media plays a central role in such activities, he added.
The ACM believes that if the local government elections are postponed its proposed guidelines may allow fair and equal exposure for all political parties.
Motsoeneng’s party also argues that it is constitutionally justifiable to postpone the municipal polls in light of the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and political rights.
The party warned that should minority political parties, despite their policy goals and interests, not be able to interact with communities and mobilise voters simply due to a lack of communication and resources owing to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, the electoral threshold will inevitably become too high for them with only minority votes.
The Constitutional Court will hear the IEC’s application on Friday.