South Africans can no longer wait for electoral reforms, MPs said

South Africans are awaiting approval from independent candidates through electoral law so they can run in the general election, OneSA told Parliament’s Home Affairs portfolio committee on Tuesday.

The organization has given presentations at the commission’s virtual public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill. The committee is rushing to complete the public hearings and get the ball rolling for the amendment of the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to participate in the state and state polls.

In 2020, the Constitutional Court declared Article 19 of the law unconstitutional for excluding independents, and gave parliament 24 months to amend the electoral law.

With the June 2022 deadline approaching, the commission decided to approach the apex court to request a postponement. The committee cited the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the impediments to conducting thorough public hearings.

ALSO READ: MPs want to extend deadline for electoral law amendments

‘Lekota account’

OneSA spokesman Mudzuli Rakhivhane said what has come to be known as the “Lekota Bill” or the “People’s Bill”, sponsored by Cope MP Musioua Lekota, should have been included in the public hearings as it addresses the same issues.

“Bring the Lekota Act into this process… many of the constitutional issues in the Electoral Amendment Bill are actually in the People’s Bill. The executive has actually wasted a significant amount of time drafting a new bill, when there was a perfectly workable bill for over a year.

Lekota’s bill proposed the introduction of a district-based electoral system, which he said would safeguard a voter’s relationship with a member of parliament. He further proposed holding elections in 52 constituencies using an “open list” system of proportional representation.

According to the Cope leader, this would ensure accountability from representatives.

However, the committee dropped its bill last month, saying it was “inappropriate” because it proposed “broad, far-reaching changes” that could not be passed and implemented before the 2024 general election.

ALSO READ: Constitutional Court declares electoral law unconstitutional

The current electoral system, Rakhivhane said, was intended to be transitional and not for long-term use.

“A number of committees in recent years have called for electoral reform and proposed alternative systems. It is disheartening that, after working at a snail’s pace for 18 months, the commission has approached the Constitutional Court for an extension of the deadline, when there is not much to see over time.

“It is our sincere hope that this extension request is not just a tactic to delay time to prevent these electoral reforms from being implemented by the 2024 elections.”

A rebellious Lekota told the committee he will not withdraw his bill until it has been discussed openly and includes public participation.

“We are entitled to a full and correct time on the account. Nor have we been given any open space to sufficiently debate the verdict with the people. I will not withdraw the bill because unless it is discussed and The throwdowntvs are given a chance to debate it, it simply cannot be thrown out of parliament.”

He said he would support those who decide to return to the highest court to ask for an injunction for Parliament to open a public debate on his bill.

‘No shortcuts’

Commission President Mosa Chabane assured everyone that their input would be considered.

“I want to assure you all that we here and the Parliament have all read the judgment of the Constitutional Court. We don’t take your presentations lightly.

“You are here to strengthen the discourse for greater democracy, we need to involve all members of the public to ask for all kinds of opinions. We would never be short on this or we wouldn’t comply with the highest court in the country.”

Rakhivhane said: “We can’t afford to go at a snail’s pace anymore, we need to pick up the pace. South Africans know that this electoral system is more than ripe for change. We need to go from a snail’s pace to a speed rail. This is what the people of South Africa earn.”

Public hearings continue on Wednesday.

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