Residents of Gauteng’s West Rand District have told the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs that the draft Electoral Amendment Bill will empower communities to choose their own representatives in Parliament and provincial legislatures. They also hope it will help produce capable leaders. Yesterday, the committee held public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill in Gauteng’s West Rand District.

Residents of Mogale City, West Rand and Merafong local municipalities gathered at the Randfonten IEC Hall to make submissions on the draft legislation, which is currently the subject of a nationwide public consultation process hosted by the committee.

While the public holds a variety of views on the Bill, from those who want the current electoral system retained to those calling for a constituency-based system, there is general support for the Bill’s intention to allow independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections.

The Bill seeks to introduce amendments to the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 after the Constitutional Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for not allowing independent candidates to contest elections to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

In Randfontein, members of the public supporting the Bill told the committee that the amendments will give every individual the right to be elected to parliament and provincial legislatures without political party membership as a precondition.

They also said the amendment Bill give communities the opportunity to choose capable leaders, unlike the current situation where some parties nominate compromised candidates to represent communities.

“The amendment Bill will empower people to choose their own Members of Parliament. The community will elect people who are aware of the dynamics in their area. The Bill will also give opportunity to capable people who have been excluded by political parties,” said one resident, Mr Andre Roberts.

Another resident, Mr Andile Mthembu warned that the idea of independent candidates might not serve the intended objective, as it will be open to abuse by opportunistic and disgruntled political party members who will run for elections as independents when they do not make it on to their party lists.

Another resident, Mr Welile Fihla, supported the Bill because it will ensure people elect somebody they know. He said it was unfair to the voters when political parties only reveal candidates after the election results. He cited an example from the 2021 local government elections, when some parties did not reveal mayoral candidates until after the elections.

Committee Chairperson Mr Mosa Chabane said: “We appreciate the diverse views and inputs made by the members of the community. We also commend the public for taking the opportunity to guide the committee on how to respond the court order.”

Sakhile Mokoena
15 March 2021