17 January 2023
Hon. MS Chabane
Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
Parliament of South Africa
For attention: Mr Eddy Mathonsi
Dear Hon. Chabane,
SUBMISSION AND COMMENTS ON THE ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL [B1B-2022]
Your call for written submissions and comments on the proposed amendments from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to the Electoral Amendment Bill (B1B-2022], refers.
The Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) would like to take this opportunity to comment on the amendment to clause three and the inclusion of the new clause 23.
We are pleased that the NCOP, at least in this instance, has acknowledged the importance of ensuring the constitutional requirement for the equal treatment of independent candidates and political parties. That said, we are of the opinion that the threshold remains challenging for independents to achieve, as motivated hereunder:
Although it is correct to institute qualifying criteria for independent candidates (and indeed parties as well) to participate in the elections, in that some level of support needs to be demonstrated prior to the IEC incurring logistical costs attached to such participation, the test of reasonableness needs to be satisfied.
Should the qualifying criteria be of such a nature that it will be difficult for candidates to achieve, it could very well be interpreted as a scheme to keep independent candidates out of the race. Whilst the Bill may technically provide for independent candidates to participate, in reality (practice) it may very well prove unachievable. Therefore a more reasonable number of seconding votes should be considered.
The situation, the Institute believes, will be exacerbated through the tight timelines that will by necessity be set for candidates to secure the seconding signatures. The election already takes place mid-2024, whilst, the Electoral Amendment Bill is still under consideration. This process must be followed by IEC planning, the drafting of rules and regulations, the design of the seconding forms and templates, etcetera. Candidates cannot start collecting signatures until all the uncertainties have been cleared up, which will not leave much time for them to secure the extremely high number of seconding signatures as currently provided for.
If anything, independent candidates should require less signatures than political parties, in that parties have more people and infrastructure to gather signatures than would be expected from an independent candidate who is participating as a single person on his/her own.
Thus, we reiterate our previously proposed remedy, namely that independent candidates be required to secure the same number of verifiable seconding signatures that new political parties currently need to register, that is 1000.
New clause 23
The ISI welcomes the introduction of this new clause that has as its objective the establishment of an Electoral Reform Consultation Panel. The inclusion of this provision provides some comfort that there is an acknowledgment by the Legislature that broader electoral reform is necessary, and that the public requires such reform on an urgent basis. We are of the view that society will not accept a delay in such reform beyond 2029.
The ISI wishes to make a few proposals to strengthen the work of the Panel.
23(3)(b): Whilst we are in agreement with the public participation programme proposed, such participation should not be limited to responding to proposed models by the panel only, but should also allow for the public to also proactively make their own proposals with regard to electoral models for the Panel to consider.
23(9)(a) provides for only South African citizens to become members of the panel. It may be prudent to allow for a limited number of international experts (one or two), to become members. This may help ensure that the model ultimately proposed by the panel meets the highest international norms and standards.
23(9)(b) provides for the Minister to consult the Commission in the appointment of members to the panel. The ISI proposes the insertion of Parliament in the place of, or in addition to, the Commission. This is to ensure free-thinking by the panel, unhindered by the potential bias and/or preferences that the Commission may have. This amendment would help remove any perceived or real conflict of interest and preference of candidate to achieve the Commission’s preferred outcome.
In closing, the Inclusive Society Institute wishes to place on record, that whilst it is appreciative of some of the amendments made by both the Portfolio and Select Committees, there remains areas of contention, as can be gleaned from our previous submissions (attached as Annexure A), that the Institute will continue to challenge.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to make this submission.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
PO Box 12609, Mill Street, Cape Town, South Africa, 8010 Spaces ▪ 1006 One Thibault, 1 Thibault Square, Cape Town, South Africa, 8001
Tel: +27 (0) 21 201 1589, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.inclusivesociety.org.za, 235-515 NPO PBO 930069173
VP Khanyile (Chairperson), Z Ndevu (Deputy Chairperson), K Millard, K Khoza, S Muller, D Swanepoel (CEO)