Electoral Amendment Bill: Independent candidates’ requirements still under debate

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Photo: Gypseenia Lion

Electoral Amendment Bill discussions continue as requirements for independent candidates dominates meeting.

One of the hot topics that are currently occupying the minds of South Africans is that of independent candidates being allowed to contest provincial and nation elections.

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, on Tuesday morning, hosted a briefing with the state law advisers on the draft amendments agreed on the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The main issues that were discussed included the role of independent candidates and the requirements needed for them, and whether independent candidates should be allowed to contest elections in different regions while registered to vote in a particular area, among others.

Committee member, Brandon Pillay, proposed that independent candidates should only be allowed to contest elections in one region.

“I don’t think it would be logical for independents to contest elections in different areas, even political parties don’t do that.

“Imagine a situation where a candidate is registered to vote in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), registers to contest there as well as in Limpopo. What happens when the candidate in question gets more votes in Limpopo…Does that mean he will have to now go and live in Limpopo,” Pillay asked.

Telana Halley from Parliament’s legal services was of the opinion that independent candidates should have representatives on the political liaison committee.

She said independent candidates should also be allowed to appoint party agents.

Photo: Gypseenia Lion

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was excused from the briefing and allowed more time to complete its report.

IEC’s Mosotho Moepya confirmed that they were looking into the amendments and will provide a report by Friday.

He said some of the issues the IEC will be giving feedback on include ID numbers of people supporting independent candidates.

“We will also recommend that the signatures be kept by the independents, Moepya said.

The committee also agreed that independent candidates would have to pay deposits and that the bill should be amended to reflect three ballot papers.

 

Photo: Gypseenia Lion

The Constitutional Court has already granted Parliament a six month extension of the deadline it gave to amend the Electoral Act to allow for independents to stand in general elections.

The deadline was due to expire on 10 June, and has now been extended to 10 December.

Time is also running out for the work around this bill to be concluded ahead of the much anticipated 2024 polls.

The Constitutional Court ruled in June 2022, that the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 is unconstitutional to the extent that it required that adult citizens may be elected to the Nasional Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties.

Former leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and now leader of One South Africa, Mmusi Maimane, has been one of the most vocal people calling for the amendment of the bill.

In a recent interview with The Citizen, Maimane said the bill is arguably the single most important piece of legislation before Parliament since the dawn of democracy.

“Our system of politics and government is suffering from low levels of accountability, from slow levels of policy making and from low quality representation – and the people of South Africa know that this electoral system is more than ripe for change,” Maimane added.

Stephen Tau/The Citizen