Parliament, Thursday 20 October 2022 – The National Assembly (NA) has at its hybrid plenary sitting today passed the Electoral Amendment Bill [B1B – 2022].
The Bill was warranted by the Constitutional Court judgement in the New Nation Movement NPC and Others vs President of the Republic of South Africa and Others case in June 2020 which ruled that the Electoral Act of 1998 was unconstitutional to the extent that it requires that adult citizens may be elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Legislation only through their membership of political parties.
The Bill is mostly aimed at, amongst others, inserting certain definitions that are deemed consequential to the expansion of the Act to include independent candidates as contesters to elections in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. It seeks to provide for the nomination of independent candidates to contest elections in the National Assembly or provincial legislatures and also provides for the requirements and qualifications that must be met by persons who wish to be registered as independent candidates.
The Electoral Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament by the Minister of Home Affairs on 10 January and published for public comment on 21 January 2022 - with the closing date set for the 21st of February 2022. The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which was tasked with processing the Bill, received 107 written submissions and 13 oral submissions from individuals and organisations that included - One South Africa Movement, Africa School of Governance, Mr. Zolani Zonyani, Citizens Parliament, Outa, COSATU, Abatsha Force of Change, Independent Candidate Association, Inclusive Society Institute, 70s Group, New Nation Movement, Indigenous First Nation of South Africa and Council for the Advancement of South African Constitution.
As mandated by the Constitution, the Committee also conducted provincial public hearings in all nine (9) South African provinces from 7 – 23 March 2022 where a total of three thousand, four hundred and eighty-three (3 483) people attended the public hearings and six hundred and ten (610) made oral submissions, with three hundred and eighty-nine (389) supporting the Bill and two Hundred and twenty-two (222) rejecting the current format of the Bill.
However, due to the complexity of the Bill and including the demanding extensive public participation process the Committee foresaw that it was not going to meet the Constitutional Court deadline of 10 June 2022. In this regard, prior to the expiry of the deadline – Parliament approached the Constitutional Court to request an extension period of six (6) months to finalise the Bill. The Constitutional Court granted an extension until 10 December 2022 to complete the processing of the Bill.
In the further processing of the Bill, the Committee invited the Department of Home Affairs, the Electoral Commission and the Parliamentary Legal Service to comment on the report on public participation and thereport formed the basis of the Committee deliberationswhere it deliberated on the Bill on several occasions and held meetings during the Parliament’s Constituency period in June, July and October 2022.
The extended deliberations led to the Committee proposing additional amendments to other sections of the Electoral Act, 1998, which were not part of the Bill and proposed other material changes to various definitions and clauses in the Bill. As a result, the Committee requested permission from the National Assembly to extend the scope of the Bill. This, in terms of the National Assembly Rule 286(4)(b) and (4)(c). The National Assembly granted permission on 1 September 2022 whereby on the second (2nd) September 2022, the Committee advertised these proposed amendments and called for public submissions two weeks later on the 16thSeptember 2022 which was in order to ensure that members of the public have a chance to comment only on those proposed amendments to the Bill.
With reference to the renewed call for public comments, a total of two hundred and fifty-eight (258) submissions were received comprising two hundred and fifty-four (254) email submissions and three (3) hand-delivered submissions. Also, thirteen (13) substantive submissions (emails) encompassing over hundred (100)pages of inputs were received that included three (3) physically hand-delivered submissions from “Civil Society” with a total of one thousand, two hundred and eighteen (1218) signatures from “Defend our Democracy” being supported by fifty-six (56) organisations and from DearSA providing a summary of its emailed submissions.
The Committee considered all the received submissions and respectively deliberated on them. All these resulted in five (5) significant changes.
The Committee having reconsidered the amendments in the Electoral Amendment Bill, recommended that the House approves the Bill.
The Bill will now be sent to the National of Provinces for further consideration and concurrence.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo