Parliament, Monday, 7 March 2022 – A delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has concluded the first session of three KwaZulu-Natal public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill, with residents calling for a re-evaluation of the calculation of seats for representatives in both the provincial and national legislatures.
The committee is undertaking comprehensive and meaningful public hearings on the Bill and assured participants that their considered and insightful views will be taken into consideration when the committee deliberates on the Bill.
The Bill was necessitated by the June 2020 Constitutional Court judgement on the New Nation Movement NPC and Others vs President of the Republic of South Africa and Others case. The judgement found the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 unconstitutional, to the extent that it requires adult citizens be elected to the National Assembly and to provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties.
All participants speaking at the Richards Bay public hearings underscored their support for the Bill, albeit with amendments to remedy some of its shortcomings. One such shortcoming is that the Bill does not state explicitly the allocation of seats for provincial legislatures. This element is stated explicitly for national Parliament. The Bill currently proposes 400 seats for the National Assembly, with 200 seats elected from nine provinces or regions (200 regional seats) and the other 200 seats will be compensatory seats, which will be contested by political parties.
There was also a concern that the Bill might have unintended consequences, especially for the representation of women. The argument was made that South Africa’s current patriarchal society might disadvantage women, who are often poorer than men, from raising the required election deposit. This will preclude them from contesting positions. The suggested remedy was for the Bill to regulate specifically the allocations for women and men.
Other concerns were that schedule 1A (4) of the Bill could be unfair in its current form, as it might lead to a situation in which Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal occupy 50% of the regional seats based on population and number of votes received. This would undermine the intention of representation as espoused in the Bill, participants said.
The committee will today continue with public hearings in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. It invites all interested organisations and individuals to come and engage with the committee.
The committee is cognisant that these hearings take place while the country continues to face the risks posed by Covid-19. It has taken consideration of this and has in place mitigating plans to ensure participants’ safety.
NB: The full programme of the hearings can be uploaded from the link below: https://tinyurl.com/bde2kry4
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE LEADER OF DELEGATION OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HOME AFFAIRS, MR BRANDON PILLAY.
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