DURBAN - A bloated ballot paper and access to finances were of major concern from participants at the Electoral Amendment Bill hearings in Ngwelezane, Richards Bay, on Monday.
In June 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that parts of the Electoral Act (No 3 of 1998) were unconstitutional, to the extent that it required that electoral candidates may be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties.
The apex court said that individuals or independent candidates should be allowed to run for election to both the legislative bodies, thereafter, giving Parliament 24 months to complete the amendment of the bill in line with its ruling.
During the hearings, members of the community, political parties, and councillors made submissions regarding the current draft of the bill.
Nonto Mzimela, a resident in Ngwelezane, said that the amendment bill received support from the general public, but cautioned the committee over the access to finances for women candidates.
“The logistics of how the bill will eventually be implemented remain an issue of concern. Our democracy allows every individual to contest the election.
“Our country is a predominantly patriarchal society even when it comes to financial access, which could mean the qualification for women to contest independently would be at risk due to monetary constraints. The committee should consider gender parity as a focal component of its implementation policy.
“However, it would be my contention that independents do not receive any special treatment, and should be guided by the same standards that political parties are confined to,” Mzimela said.
Speakers from the ANC welcomed the bill with reservations. ANC ward 28 councillor Sphelele Gumede, said the public representative (PR) system worked better for representation.
“We believe that the PR system is the best way to have a representation of the most marginalised people in our society. We do have concerns about the length of the ballot paper if everyone is going to be part of the list of candidates. There should be a threshold of the people who are going to stand for election.
“The committee should also note the problems that arise from politicians who are part of parties, who, after the realisation that their names do not appear on the candidate list for election, want to stand in other parties, in this case, they will look to be independents. A strategy to avert that possibly should be clearly defined,” Gumede said.
DA’s Sphesihle Magubane said the party supports the bill in its current form, but should clearly define the objection clause in terms of disqualification.
“The DA supports the Electoral Amendment Bill in its current form, we have long called for its fast-tracking. Our submission would be that under section 31(b), supported by 31(c) under non-compliance, and 31(e) on grounds of objections that it be included that should members of the public be aware that the candidates as is the case currently in political parties, that one cannot be a councillor or a member of Parliament as well if they have been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
“So, it should be expressly included as part of objections for independent candidates’ eligibility,” Magubane said.
Chairperson of the hearings Brandon Pillay said the committee would not provide any answers to the concerns raised in the meeting but would put all submissions into consideration when the bill was officially tabled in Parliament.
“It should be noted that the hearings are not for us to provide immediate clarification about the concerns members of the community have regarding the bill. However, we have to exhaust the hearings process and come up with solutions for debate in the National Assembly and the Provincial Legislature,” Pillay said.