Cope's Mosiuoa Lekota. File picture: Michael Walker
Cope's Mosiuoa Lekota. File picture: Michael Walker

Lekota to introduce bill for independent candidates' participation in general elections

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Aug 30, 2020

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The Congress of the People (Cope) has wasted no time in introducing to Parliament its private member's bill that will provide for independent candidates to contest the general elections.

Cope's president Mosiuoa Lekota made his intention clear when he published a notice in the government gazette on Friday.

This comes months after the Constitutional Court declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional when it found that the existing laws deprived the citizens of their right not to affiliate to a political organization.

It also takes place against the background of the Home Affairs Department still to receive approval from the cabinet to introduce a similar bill well in advance of the June 2022 deadline set by the court.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a parliamentary committee that a constitutional amendment would be required if the Electoral Act was amended to accommodate independents.

In his notice published on Friday, Lekota said he intended to introduce the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill in Parliament during the fourth quarter of 2020.

He said the electoral system for the National Assembly and provincial legislatures in South Africa allowed for political parties (and not individuals) to contest elections.

Lekota also said after each general election, each qualifying party was allocated a number of seats in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures calculated according to a formula contained in the schedule of the Electoral Act.

Each party, he said, determined which of its members will fill the seats so allocated.

"While the requirement of proportionality is met in such a system, voters are estranged because a direct relationship with a member of Parliament is absent and a lack of accountability of members of the relevant legislatures to its voters prevails much to their chagrin."

Lekota also said the increasing and continuing alienation of voters from the political system was detrimental to democracy and the well-being of society at large.

He decried that voters were unable in terms of the current laws to choose an independent candidate to represent them in Parliament more effectively.

He further maintained that his new bill would address the Constitutional Court judgment by amending relevant electoral legislation.

In terms of Lekota's notice, interested parties and institutions are invited to submit written representations on the proposed content of the draft bill to the National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise by September 30.

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