South Africa: Setting election dates

Extracted from: Susan Booysen & Grant Masterson 2009 "Chapter 11: South Africa" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 405.

Elections in South Africa take place in a five-year cycle, with national and provincial elections running concurrently. Local government elections are offered on a similar five-year cycle on a separate date, usually one to two years after the national and provincial elections. Elections in South Africa must take place within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, with the date announced by the president or acting president of the republic (Constitution 1996, 49). In terms of section 17 of the Electoral Act of 1998, the president or acting president must determine the voting day after consultation with the Electoral Commission. National Assembly and provincial legislature elections have been held on four occasions in the post-apartheid era, namely on 26-29 April 1994, 2 June 1999, 14 April 2004 and 22 April 2009.


Rviewed April 2019

Dissolution of the National Assembly

The National Assembly stands dissolved at the expiry of its five year term, but continues to function until election day (Constitution 1996, 49(2)). The National Assembly may only be dissolved before the expiry of its term, with one exception, if a majority of its members so resolve and then only if it has completed three years of its term (Constitution 1996, 50(1)). However, in the exceptional situation where the National Assembly fails to fill a vacancy in the office of the President, then the Acting President may dissolve the House (Constitution 1996, 50(2)).

Hours of voting

Unless the IEC decides otherwise voting is conducted between 07:00 and 21:00, but eligible voters already at the polling station at closing time must be permitted to vote; the IEC may extend the voting period up to midnight or close a polling station if it believes free and fair elections are not possible there (Electoral Act 1998, 36).


CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SA 1996, [www] [opens new window] (accessed 7 Feb 2011).

ELECTORAL ACT 73 1998, includes amendments of 2000 and 2003, [www] [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2010).