Parliament’s second and last extended Constitutional Court deadline to amend the Electoral Act, officially ends on Tuesday.
The national legislature, however, finalised amending the Act five days before the February 28 deadline.
This comes after the National Assembly (NA) passed the Electoral Amendment Bill on Thursday with 218 MPs voting in favour of the Bill and 81 objections.
There were no abstentions. It is now up to the president to sign it into law.
The Bill was first passed by the Assembly on October 20, 2022 with 232 voting in its favour.
Those who were in support at the time were the African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), Al Jama Ah and the National Freedom Party (NFP).
The Democratic Alliance (DA), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Freedom Front-Plus and Congress of the People (COPE) voted against it.
The Good Party and the African Independent Congress (AIC) had abstained at the time.
It was then sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.
The Bill seeks to give independent candidates the right to participate in the National and Provincial Elections.
On June, 11 2020, the Constitutional Court gave Parliament 24 months to rectify the defect in the Act following the New Nation Movement’s successful court challenge.
Constitutional Court Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional as it required adult citizens to only become members of the National Assembly or the Provincial Legislatures through political party membership.
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June 2022 deadline
Parliament missed the first deadline of 10 June 2022. It could not process the Bill on time. The Bill was only introduced in Parliament in January 2022 by the Home Affairs Ministry. This left the National Legislature with five months to amend the Act.
The National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs could only start nationwide public hearings in March 2022. However, the public participation process could not be finalised on time.
WATCH INSERT ON CONCOURT DEADLINE:
When the National Assembly could not finalise the Bill in time, Parliament successfully applied for an extension to process the Bill. It was granted a six-month extension of 10 December 2022.
After the Assembly’s passing of the Bill in October last year, the NCOP only had over 40 days to process the Bill that was finalised by the other House. However, the NCOP’s Select Committee on Security and Justice received further submissions and amendments.
The NCOP passed the Bill towards the end of November last year with amendments that were sent back to the National Assembly.
The NCOP proposed what was described as substantial and material changes. This compelled the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs to conduct further public consultation on the Bill that was amended by the NCOP.
This prompted Parliament to ask for another extension of 28 February this year.
The proposed changes included the number of signatures of support needed for independent candidates to be included on the ballot papers.
Parliament Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo gave the reasons for the extension, days before the deadline of 10th December.
“The changes proposed by the NCOP which are substantial and material in nature also speak to the proper deliberative process followed by Parliament, and which require further public participation. It lights off the materiality of the NCOP’s proposed amendment and the fact that they introduced matters on which the public had no opportunity to comment, the National Assembly is obliged to facilitate further public participation. The proposed amendments that particularly require further consultation include contentions that there is a need for broader electoral reform even broader than merely including independent candidates in the 2024 election and concerns that the Bill treats independent candidates unfavourably compared to political parties when it comes to the signatures of support that must be obtained for inclusion in the ballot paper, the practical consequences for these amendment proposed is that the Bill had to be referred back to the National Assembly for consideration. As a consequence, it will not be possible to pass the Bill by the tenth of December this year,” says Mothapo.
Parliament subsequently invited the public to make submissions. The Home Affairs was briefed by the Content Advisor at the beginning of February this year on the submissions received on the Bill.
Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Mercedes Besent on the submission: