Voters cast their ballots in Cape Town in the recent elections in November. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)
Voters cast their ballots in Cape Town in the recent elections in November. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

'Independent candidates contesting local and national elections could intensify patronage politics'

By Tarryn-Leigh Solomons Time of article published Dec 7, 2021

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Cape Town – Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says concern has been raised that allowing independent candidates to contest in national and local government elections could exacerbate patronage politics.

About two weeks ago, Cabinet approved a report that would allow independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections.

In June 2020 the Constitutional Court ruled that independent candidates can contest both elections to be MPs and MPLs, and not be restricted to local government level.

This was after the New Nation Movement went to the High Court where it initially lost the battle, but went to the Constitutional Court to appeal the decision.

The apex court eventually ruled in favour of the New Nation Movement and gave Parliament two years to fix the electoral laws to allow independent candidates to contest elections at national and provincial levels.

In response to the ruling, Motsoaledi established the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) to identify the extent of the constitutional provisions affected by the ConCourt’s judgment; develop policy options on the electoral system that address the defects of the Electoral Act; recommend possible options to be considered; and consult with stakeholders in the development of the options.

Briefing the portfolio committee on home affairs on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said engagements took place with electoral stakeholders, political parties, organised labour and business.

“While many expressed a desire for greater individual and local representation and accountability of MPs through the introduction of constituencies, a few questioned whether the electoral system lay at the root of the current dissatisfaction with government and worried that these changes would make little difference to democratic quality,” he said.

Motsoaledi further stated that those in support of changes to the electoral system expressed various views about preferred electoral system alternatives, with some favouring multi-member and others single-member constituencies.

“On voting, some favour a situation where voters vote for individuals in the local member of the mayoral committees (MMCs) while others prefer that the voters vote for parties. In addition, there are those that would have local-MMC votes distributed proportionately, and those that would have them selected in order of how many votes they get,” Motsoaledi shared.

He further added that a question which confronted the MAC was whether the committee should seek to satisfy the ConCourt’s requirement or use the occasion to address public aspirations for an electoral system that includes greater elements of local representation and individual accountability to voters.

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