Parliament, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 – A delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has concluded the second of three sessions in KwaZulu-Natal of the public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill. The delegation visited Pietermaritzburg and heard a variety of views on the Bill, with some residents supporting and others rejecting it.

Those supporting the Bill underscored that the Constitutional Court judgement was specific, stipulating only that independent candidates be allowed to participate in elections. The judgement did not call for a wholesale reform of the South African electoral processes. Therefore, the minimalist approach adopted in the Bill remedies the identified deficiency, supporters said.

They also called for independent candidates to be held to the same standards as political parties when it comes to the payment of election deposits. This would serve to mitigate against an unreasonably long ballot paper that could make the democratic process difficult, especially considering South Africa’s high illiteracy rate. Supporters thought that separate ballot papers would be a good idea, one for political parties and another for independent candidates.

On the issue of vacancies, participants supported the proposal that an independent seat remains vacant to protect the fiscus, because it will be expensive and impractical to run by-elections on a national or provincial scale. Those in support of the Bill vehemently opposed the donation of votes in cases where independents have votes in excess of the required quota.

Those against the Bill questioned its constitutionality, saying it does not allow for the true and direct election of parliamentary representatives. They emphasised that people prefer to elect people they know, rather than those imposed on them by political parties. They highlighted their support for a constituency-based system, as identified by numerous commissions, including the Van Zyl Slabbert commission.

Furthermore, those opposed to the Bill highlighted that discarding votes is unconstitutional, in that it undermines the principle that every vote should be treated equally. In addition, they believe that by stipulating that only votes for independent candidates are discarded, while those for political parties contribute to the final composition of the National Assembly and the provincial legislature is unfair.

Also, those against the Bill highlighted that the Electoral Amendment Bill is purely cosmetic and that the time is ripe for an overhaul of the entire electoral system. This will ensure accountability, as the current system encourages representatives to be accountable to the party and not the electorate.

The leader of delegation, Mr Brandon Pillay, welcomed the insightful inputs made in Pietermaritzburg and assured the participants that their views will be considered when the committee deliberates on the Bill and on the public submissions.

The committee will today hold the final hearings in KwaZulu-Natal at the Acacia Civic Centre in Ladysmith. 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 take place while the country continues to deal with the risks posed by Covid-19. It has, therefore, put measures in place to ensure participants’ safety.

Details of the hearings (KwaZulu-Natal)
Date: Wednesday, 9 March 2022
Time: 10:00
Venue: Acacia Civic Centre, Ladysmith


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