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Pretoria - Electoral laws will be put to test on Wednesday morning in the High Court in Pretoria when the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) launches an urgent application against the imposition of money required to contest the May 7 elections.
It is the first time in the history of democratic South Africa that such laws have been challenged in court.
The matter was to be heard on Tuesday, but was postponed to 11.30am on Wednesday to allow all respondents – the president, minister of home affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) – enough time to file papers. This must be done by 10am, and will be followed by arguments from all four parties.
Political parties intending to contest the national and provincial elections have until 5pm next Wednesday to submit their candidate lists and pay their deposits to the IEC.
The deposit for contesting seats for the National Assembly is R200 000, up from R180 000 in the previous election, while parties contesting provincial legislatures will have to pay R45 000 (up from R40 000) per province.
A political party contesting the national and all provincial elections will therefore be required to pay a deposit of R605 000. The rates were last increased in 2009, the IEC says.
Parties need to win one seat in the National Assembly or provincial legislature to get their deposit back.
The EFF has strongly rejected the high deposits and said it was unconstitutional and unfair to new entrants, and violated the right to vote and be voted for.
EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema said if the court ruled against his fledgling party it would be sending a message that contesting the election was an honour reserved only for the rich.
“For an organisation like the EFF, R600 000 can print lots of campaign posters instead of giving it to the IEC,” Malema said on Tuesday.
He was accompanied by his central command team, including Dali Mpofu and Floyd Shivambu. “We will not pay. The IEC doesn’t need the money, hence it gives it back to parties to compete against us.”
Malema, who addressed rain-soaked EFF members in front of the Palace of Justice, said the case was a “battle against racism”.
Money should not determine who campaigns in the election, he said. “This is a capitalist mentality. There are other means that can determine the seriousness of a political party that can be explored.
“You cannot pull a crowd of 70 000 to the manifesto launch, as we did, and still be required to justify your seriousness. The IEC should be ashamed of waging war against the poor. Any party that has an office with phone lines and able to pay rent every month, should be serious.”
Malema said other parties had money and “some even steal from the government”, while the EFF relied on donors and generous members donating their personal money.
The party also had legal gurus who had made it their priority to liberate the poor free of charge.
The EFF, he said, would take the matter to the highest court in the country – the Constitutional Court – should it not succeed in the high court. “If all the courts rule against us, that will still be a victory for the EFF: we will have succeeded in proving our internationally-acclaimed constitution only benefits the rich.
“While this requirement has been there since 1994, there has never been a party committed to fighting for the poor.”