Parliament’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to stand in provincial and national elections has been extended.
- Parliament’s presiding officers welcomed the Constitutional Court postponing the legislature’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act by six months.
- It blamed the Department of Home Affairs’ late introduction of the bill to the National Assembly for the delay.
- The intention is to send the bill for the president’s assent by September.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo welcomed the Constitutional Court extending Parliament’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to stand in provincial and national elections.
The apex court granted Parliament’s application on Friday – the very same day the previous deadline expired.
“The ruling comes after Parliament filed an application in April 2022 to the apex court requesting that it be granted an extension from 10 June 2022 to 10 December 2022 in order to give Parliament sufficient time to properly deliberate on the Electoral Amendment Bill and to ensure that citizens across the country are afforded an opportunity to meaningfully participate and share their views on the bill in accordance with sections 59(1)(a) and 72(1)(a) of the Constitution,” reads the statement from Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
In June 2020, the Constitutional Court instructed Parliament to amend the Electoral Act to allow people not belonging to parties to be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
The court gave Parliament 24 days to do this.
“Following the court’s judgment in June 2020, Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs have undertaken various actions including meetings with relevant stakeholders, such as the Minister of Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure that they together set in motion the process that would ensure they give effect to the order within the stipulated timeframes,” said Mothapo.
He said a “clear integrated roadmap” was developed and agreed to, which included the proposed dates on which the department would introduce the bill.
“However, these dates were not met. Several follow-up communications were sent to the department, which did not yield any positive outcomes and the presiding officers escalated the matter in November 2021 to the Deputy President Mr David Mabuza as the leader of government business for his intervention.”
The Electoral Amendment Bill was introduced to the National Assembly only in January 2022.
“It was only then that Parliament was seized with controlling the manner and pace at which the bill could be processed, specifically mindful to ensuring that adequate public participation was facilitated,” Mothapo said.
“This late introduction only gave Parliament five months to process a bill of such public significance and interest.”
He said Parliament would use this extension to finalise the bill. “It is anticipated that the bill will be sent to the President for assent by end September, so as to leave sufficient time for the President to remit the bill to Parliament, should he have any constitutional concerns.”
Civil society has complained about the process the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has followed with the bill and its content.
In its current form, the bill may favour bigger parties when the seats are calculated, and it has the support of the majority party, the ANC.
The One South Africa Movement (OSA) will gather at the Constitutional Court on Saturday to voice its displeasure about Parliament missing the original deadline.