Parliament, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 – A delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has concluded the first of three public hearings in Free State with a strong view emerging that independent candidates should be treated the same as political parties for the payment of election deposit. The committee is continuing with a public participation process across the country and yesterday started hearings in Gauteng and Free State.
The view was that it will be patently unfair that there is a special dispensation when political parties and independent candidates contest for the same positions. For the 2019 provincial and national elections, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) approved election deposits of R200 000 for parties wishing to contest national elections and R45 000 per provincial election contested. The view was that these amounts should also apply to independent candidates.
There was widespread support for the Bill, albeit with suggested amendments aimed at strengthening it. Some of the suggestions presented included the call for stricter guidelines for participation as an independent, calls for discarding votes in cases where an independent candidate achieves excess votes, a clear process of objections to signatures supporting an independent candidate’s candidature, and clear punishment for any person seeking to defraud the electoral system by submitting forged signatures for candidature. Also, similar to previous hearings, there was a strong view that to protect the fiscus and avoid continual by-elections, vacancies that arise must remain vacant.
Furthermore, there was support for the proportional representation model, with participants saying it allows for greater representation of women, youth, and other marginalised groups who might ordinarily be excluded under a constituency-based system.
Generally, there was a convergence of views that the time is ripe for the inclusion of independent candidates to participate in provincial and national elections and that this is a sign of democratic maturity.
Despite the broad support for the Bill, some opposed it, suggesting that South Africa is not administratively ready to run elections that include independent candidates. The high number of candidates might make the process difficult, they said.
Also, some participants at the hearings thought that the system envisioned in the Bill is unworkable in that as it is presented it will require an independent candidate to get at least 82 000 votes (in the Free State) to gain a seat. There was also a call for the committee to consider the majority report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee, especially in relation to the transfer of votes.
The delegation will today hold the second leg of hearings in Senekal in the Free State. The committee invites all individuals and interested organisations to come and make inputs on the bill, to ensure that the final product is reflective of their will and aspirations. The committee is cognisant that these hearings happen while the country continues to face the risks posed by Covid-19. The committee has taken into consideration this and has in place mitigating plans to ensure participants’ safety.
Details of the hearings (Senekal)
Date: Tuesday, 15 March 2022
Venue: Senekal Town Hall.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE LEADER OF DELEGATION OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HOME AFFAIRS, MS ANTHEA RAMOLOBENG
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