Parliament concerned about hold-up in amending Electoral Act

Home affairs minister urged to 'speed up the process' as deadline looms

18 November 2021 - 13:15
The apex court gave parliament 24 months to correct a defect in the Electoral Act, which does not provide for independent candidates to stand for provincial and national elections. File photo.
The apex court gave parliament 24 months to correct a defect in the Electoral Act, which does not provide for independent candidates to stand for provincial and national elections. File photo.
Image: Kevin Sutherland/EPA

Parliament is unlikely to meet a Constitutional Court deadline to pave the way for independent candidates to stand in the 2024 general elections.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi is yet to table a bill that will allow the legislature to amend the law before the June 2022 deadline.

National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will now write to Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as leader of government business in parliament about the delays in finalising amendments to the electoral law.

“I've decided that I will write a letter to the leader of government business to request him to urge the minister of home affairs to speed up the process so that it goes to cabinet and finally to parliament.

"That's a process which I have seriously considered,” she said on Thursday.

Parliamentary legal adviser advocate Charmaine van der Merwe raised the alarm during a meeting of the National Assembly's programming committee.

She warned MPs that the suspension of the ConCourt order on the matter lapses on June 10 2022 and that the department of home affairs had confirmed that President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet is yet to deliberate on the matter.

Motsoaledi appointed an advisory committee on the electoral system chaired by former cabinet minister and ANC veteran Valli Moosa in February.

Van der Merwe told MPs that the committee has completed its work and its report will be taken to the cabinet.

“However, we do not have any indication of when a bill will be introduced into parliament and even if a bill is introduced early in January, it leaves parliament with six months to process this bill in both houses and for the president to consider and assent to the bill.

“This period is a bit of a concern. It doesn't leave a lot of time for parliament to deliberate on this matter,” she said.

MPs agreed and urged Mapisa-Nqakula to write to the executive to raise parliament's concerns.

ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude lamented a “tendency” of bills being delayed within government departments and being brought to parliament at a late stage.

She said this was “most problematic”, highlighting that when the court passes judgment on the delay, it will be against parliament and not those departments.

The IFP's Narend Singh indicated that it was unlikely for work on such a bill to start before February or March, as parliament normally deals with events like the state of the nation address before considering such legislative work.

He too urged Mapisa-Nqakula to write to the cabinet to consider the matter expeditiously.

For the African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart, this was “a matter of huge concern” not only because of the time limit but there was a tendency by the ConCourt not to grant any extensions of deadlines, he said.

“We need to take this up urgently and we need to regularly obtain feedback and closely monitor this, given that it is a major policy development required looking into the elections,” he said.

The ConCourt found that exclusive party proportional representation could no longer be used. The judgment, handed down in June 2020, gave parliament 24 months to correct a defect in the Electoral Act, which does not provide for independent candidates to stand for provincial and national elections.

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