Cape Town - The bill which will provide for independent candidates to contest seats in Parliament and provincial legislatures was easily passed in the National Assembly on Thursday.
This was after the ANC clubbed together with the EFF, Al-jama-ah and the Good Party to amass 218 votes. The DA along with the IFP, Freedom Front Plus and ACDP garnered 81 votes.
Other parties, including the UDM and African Independent Congress which had participated in the debate were not present when the vote took place.
“The bill has been passed. The bill will be sent to the president for assent,” House chairperson Mmatlala Grace Boroto said after the counting of the vote.
The bill was sent back to the National Assembly late last year after the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) came up with material amendments that required public consultation when it was brought to it for concurrence.
The bill has reduced the 20% threshold for signatures to be submitted by parties and independent candidates supporting their candidature requirement to a 15% quota of results of the preceding elections.
Parties and candidates represented in Parliament and provincial legislatures would be exempt from the requirement.
The bill also provides for the appointment of an electoral reform consultation panel by the minister of home affairs in consultation with Parliament and the Independent Electoral Commission to submit a report within 24 months after the 2024 elections.
ANC MP and chairperson of the home affairs portfolio committee Mosa Chabane said the bill had been tabled with confidence, despite delays.
“This bill represents the best version of our collective efforts,” Chabane said.
He also said the bill set out the framework on what should be done during the transition period as due consideration was given to broader electoral reform.
“Once the bill is passed the committee will look at consequential amendments, including the provisions entailed in the Political Party Act,” Chabane said.
DA MP Adrian Roos said his party supported the reduction of the threshold set for signatures and the proposed public participation about the long-awaited electoral reform.
But he said the bill contained glaring flaws as it was meant to facilitate the participation of independent candidates in national and provincial elections.
“Instead, it has become a completely irrational piece of legislation that is a cynical attempt to meet the requirements of the Constitutional Court.”
EFF MP Thapelo Mogale said it was not a mistake to have a multi-party democracy because parties had better solutions than individuals.
Mogale said the bill did not address the question of gender representation and could have set higher thresholds for signatures and put more stringent measures so as not to make it easy for individuals to crowd the ballot paper.
“While we have an obligation as law-makers in this House to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, we also have to ensure our electoral system is not abused by chance takers who have no meaningful support in the communities but want to run for public office,” Mogale said.
In a speech read on her behalf, the IFP’s Liezl Van der Merwe said neither Parliament nor Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledo needed to start the electoral reform process from scratch as the reforms had already began in 2003 when former minister Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi appointed the electoral task team.
She said the task team had proposed a mixed member proportional system in which half of parliamentary representation would be through constituencies and the other half through party lists.
“This is why, when the current bill left the National Assembly for the National Council of Provinces, the IFP pleaded for the need to include a small constituency component.
“However, this was ignored and what we have now is a flawed and unworkable bill,” Van der Merwe said.
The bill was introduced after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the New Nation Movement in June 2020 when it found the Electoral Act unconstitutional because it required candidates standing for elections to be members of political parties.