DURBAN - One South Africa Movement has rejected the findings of the portfolio committee on home affairs Electoral Bill hearings due to its failure to educate the public about the importance of participating in the proceedings.
In early March, the portfolio committee on home affairs launched countrywide hearings on the amendment of the bill, which could allow independent candidates to contest the election.
The Constitutional Court declared, in November 2020, that elements of the Electoral Act (No 3 of 1998) were unconstitutional as it compelled electoral candidates to be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only on the basis of their political party membership.
One South Africa spokesperson Mudzuli Rakhivhane said the movement rejected the hearings on the grounds of a lack of education on the importance of public participation.
“It is evident that Parliament and the provincial legislatures have failed in their duty to educate the public on the import of the bill, as well as the purpose of the public participation. The most glaring example of this is that many people have made submissions in favour of, or against, the inclusion of independent candidates,” said Rakhivhane.
Participants clearly did not understand that the Constitutional Court had already made a ruling to include independent candidates, and that the purpose of the hearings was to decide on a system that would best incorporate them into the electoral system, she said.
“To avoid this confusion, the committee and the provincial legislature should have presented the public with two bills, the Lekota Bill and the Executive Bill, educated them on the implications of both the bills and had them choose between the two. Instead, they only put the Executive Bill on the table and asked people to say whether or not they were in favour of that bill,” said Rakhivhane.
“It (the bill) unfairly discriminates against independents and in favour of political parties. Instead, we strongly advocate for full electoral reform, encompassing a constituency-based system whereby we the people can directly choose our leaders instead of political parties imposing their politicians on us,” said Rakhivhane.
However, the committee’s chairperson, Mosa Chabane, said they were satisfied with the engagement at ground level, which showcased a level of political tolerance and openness.
“The committee is satisfied that these engagements assisted the process and enabled South Africans to meaningfully engage with the bill.
“The collegiality that characterised all the hearings is to be admired, and is testament to the vibrancy and openness of South Africa’s democratic order.
“The majority of those in support of the bill highlighted that it had ushered in a new order that would ensure accountability from public representatives. There were calls for the bill to make explicit that independent candidates should pay election deposits, and that the threshold for attainment of seats should be revised. The question of funding for independent candidates also featured, with many participants,” said Chabane.
“Those against the amendment bill argued for a constituency-based system, with the name and face of the independent candidate being elected. Furthermore, others suggested that there is a need for the whole 400 seats of the National Assembly to be directly voted for from constituencies,” said Chabane.
He said the committee would meet with the Department of Home Affairs to consider all the submissions, “then a report will be drafted, leading to the consideration of the updated version of the bill.”