Parliament granted 6-month extension to finalise Electoral Amendment Bill

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Members of Parliament (MPs) working on the Electoral Amendment Bill will meet throughout the Parliamentary recess to finalise this legislation.

Parliament has been granted a six-month extension by the Constitutional Court, to pass this bill into law.  However, critics of the bill in its current form, say it still does not go far enough, to give voters the chance to elect their chosen representatives.

In 2020, the ConCourt ruled that the Electoral Act is unconstitutional because it prohibits independent candidates from running in national and provincial elections. It gave Parliament a deadline of 24 months to amend the law.

Last Friday was the deadline. The Concourt granted Parliament’s request for a six-month extension on the same day.

Home Affairs Committee PC Chair,  Mosa Chabane explains, “We are currently at the level of the PC deliberating on the matter. We are also going to continue with the work in line with the time frame allocated during recess so that the Committee thoroughly deliberates and completes this process for a report to be presented in the NA [National Assembly] when we reopen.”

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says “An impression has been created that the fact that we are not ready with this bill is threatening the national elections for 2024. And I don’t see in what way it is threatening the election. According to the reports which I have received from the legal team I know that we are really gunning for the 6th of November to finalise the whole thing.”

But, One South Africa Movement’s Mmusi Maimane says this bill still favours political parties over independent representatives.

“A six-month extension, whilst granted by the Constitutional Court, will mean that parliament will sign into a law a bill that still does not achieve a) for people to vote for their members of parliament directly, get to know who represents them on issues of health, education and crime, and furthermore, ensure that accountability for issues such a state capture is felt across the entire political practice.”

Other critics agree with Maimane, saying the bill currently does not give independent candidates an adequate opportunity as they are restricted to contest for only 200 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly.

Supporters of the bill want all 400 members to be elected through a constituency-based system. Parliament anticipates the bill will be sent to the President in September for assent – giving him enough time to study it, and send it back to the institution if he has any concerns.