Legal quagmire looms: President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature threatens Constitutional crisis

President Cyril Ramaphosa could be taken to court if he signs into law three contentious Bills. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

President Cyril Ramaphosa could be taken to court if he signs into law three contentious Bills. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 7, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa faces three legal challenges if he signs into law three contentious Bills, as political parties and civil society organisations have warned they are unconstitutional and unlawful.

They have asked Ramaphosa to send the Bills back to Parliament to allow for necessary amendments.

However, if he fails to return the bills to Parliament for correction, political parties and other stakeholders have threatened to challenge them in court.

Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Bill last December, which parties and stakeholders criticised as flawed, unconstitutional, and unworkable.

Ramaphosa has also been urged not to enact the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill, citing similar concerns.

The President has been warned of legal actions should he enact the Expropriation Bill. This Bill enables the government to expropriate property in the public interest or for a public purpose.

Regarding the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill, political parties have criticised the African National Congress (ANC) for inserting provisions that alter the funding formula of political parties, favouring the ANC with increased funding ahead of elections.

The funding formula was changed from 66.6% proportional representation and 33.3% equitable share to 90% proportional representation and 10% equitable share, granting the ANC a significant advantage.

“The Bill was hastily approved by the National Assembly and then by the National Council of Provinces last week,” said political parties.

“It includes contentious and substantive changes to the Political Party Funding Act not related to the inclusion of independent candidates.”

Civil society organisations, including My Vote Counts, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, and the Centre for Civic and Democracy Education, expressed concerns to the Select Committee on Security and Justice in the National Council of Provinces about the Bill's constitutionality before its passage.

Political parties have urged Ramaphosa to refer the Bill back to Parliament for revision, a step proposed for after the elections with a newly elected Parliament.

The official opposition has announced plans to request that the president return the Expropriation Bill to Parliament, citing its unconstitutionality and threat to the Bill of Rights.

“The [Democratic Alliance] DA is taking legal steps to put Ramaphosa on notice, and his only recourse is to return the constitutionally flawed Expropriation Bill to Parliament for sober consideration,” stated Annelie Lotriet, Deputy Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance.

Another legal challenge looms over the NHI Bill, awaiting the President's signature since last December. Despite assurances from Ramaphosa and senior ANC leaders of its enactment, criticisms highlight its potential to further burden the healthcare system.

The Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, admitted in Parliament that the funding model for the NHI remains undetermined, pending the President's signature on the Bill.

Critics argue that with the public healthcare system in disrepair, the government must first address these foundational issues before implementing universal health coverage. The National Treasury has allocated billions of rand to health infrastructure upgrades.

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